The managers of the state’s casinos told the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission members Thursday that business was slower in December, but all agree that it’s not clear yet how much the economy had to do with the slowdown. Riverside Casino general Manager Joe Massa says at this point the cold, snowy weather has been the biggest problem across the state.

"Particularly the weather pattern this year has been to be bad on weekends, which is about 60-percent of our business," Massa says, "so it’s just hard to tell. We’ve seen a decline in business, everybody has, but if there weren’t any talk about the economy we’d certainly say it’s the weather for sure, because that’s obvious, it’s right there in front of us and we can see it."

Massa says weather slowdowns are frustrating. He says there’s nothing you can do when it’s 35-degrees below zero people are not going to be out, and are going to stay home. Massa says if the economy continues to be a factor, there are some things that can be done to try and lure customers, but they are limited.

Massa says several things can happen, the consumers decide to reduced their spending to save more, or the consumers lose their jobs and don’t have money to spend, which he calls "the most frightening thing." Massa says casino owners take some comfort in studies that show people still need some entertainment and escape in bad economic times. He says they’ve shown movie theaters have done better in down times, and he says the casinos are also in the entertainment business.

"But the thing of it is, if people don’t have money to spend…or are gonna hoard it and not spend, then there’s nothing we can do to change their mind," Massa says. Massa says right now the casino managers are all hoping for better weather to help business and preparing to take action as they see how the economy impacts their operations.