The five members of the state racing and gaming commission said today they don’t feel the time is right to expand the number of gambling licenses, but haven’t ruled out the idea. The commissioners want a new study of gambling and will talk about that study at their meeting in April. Commissioner Gerald Bair of Ankeny, says he has many concerns about adding new casinos, including the economy.
Bair says he’s really concerned that they would move forward with any selection process as he says the statewide and national economies are not at their best and they don’t know when that might turn around. Bair says the last study on gambling showed casinos could make money in any county in the state, but he says that’s not a goal. Bair says they learned some lessons from the TouchPlay machines that Iowans don’t want gambling in every county.
Commissioner Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake, also raised economic concerns. "I think the recession is going to happen…and with that being an unknown, I think it’s a little premature…to move forward with the process to grant other licenses," Hamilton says. Commissioner Greg Seyfer of Cedar Rapids says the commission should also wait to see what happens in the legislature.
He says they’re not sure where the smoking ban is going, there’s also a bill that could put a moratorium on new licenses, and there’s a bill that would prevent casinos within a 60-miles radius of each other, so it is not the right time to grant new licenses. Commissioner Bair says a new study would help them make a decision on licenses.
Bair says he wants a study that not only includes the revenue potential but the "true economic impact on a community." He says that would include the jobs and dollars created in a community. Commission chair Kate Cutler of Council Bluffs says the study could look at a whole range of issues.
Cutler says the study would look at questions raised by the commissioners, and from those who’re seeking a license and from the current casinos. The commission will discuss the new study more at their meeting in April. Commissioners say it would be at least a year or more before they would be ready to make any decision on new licenses. Seven Iowa communities have expressed interest in a new gambling license.