A Democratic leader in the Iowa Legislature says lawmakers are considering a package that would yield as much as $25 million more in payments to the state from the state-licensed casinos.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says some casinos host poker tournaments on the gaming floor, amid the slot machines and black jack tables. The proposal under consideration would allow the casinos to hold larger poker tournaments in adjacent conference centers.
“All these casinos have convention areas, ballrooms, places where they have boxing tournaments or whatever it is and we’d be looking at some sort of non-electronic form of gaming, so poker-type games…under the same existing rules and regulations we have right now in Iowa,” McCarthy says. “That would be a win-win because you’d have these gaming institutions make a little bit more money.”
And the state would collect more money in gambling taxes from the casinos. McCarthy says the Harrah’s casino in Cou3ncil Bluffs might be the biggest beneficiary of the change.
“Harrah’s, for example, participates in the National Poker Championships that you watch on TV,” McCarthy says. “They’d be able to…draw from South Dakota and Nebraska and maybe have some fairly large tournaments there.”
Another part of the package would allow casinos to pay a fee to the state in order to avoid a once-every-eight-years referendum in the county where the casino is located.
“This discussion has been around for a couple of years. What we would likely do is to say for casinos that have had two successful elections already over an eight year period — because they’re eight years apart, if you are stabilized in your community and it looks like they want you there — remove that referendum requirement this November and instead allow the voters a reverse-referendum possibility in the future,” McCarthy says. “If a community wants to get rid of gaming in their county, they’d be able to get some signatures and have a reverse referendum to remove that in future, so you’d still have the ability to have the voters have a say in the future.”
One other part of this gambling-related package is a relatively small revenue-generator for the state according to McCarthy. It would allow the state’s horse and dog tracks to collect a fee from out-of-state operations that simulcast races that are happening at an Iowa track. McCarthy says the House could debate this package in late February or early March.
“We hope to have bipartisan support for it,” McCarthy says. “And becaues it’s so limited and the (state) budget situation is what it is, I think there’s a reasonable possibility that we could pass something in this regard.”
Another proposal — allowing video gambling machines in bars — is not part of the package. McCarthy says that idea “appears to be dead and will not move forward.”
McCarthy made his comments this morning during taping of this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” which will air tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.