A key Democrat in the Iowa legislature predicts lawmakers will get less pressure next year to deal with gambling-related topics. This past week the 2010 legislative session concluded, without action on proposals casinos wanted, like the ability to conduct poker tournaments in convention centers located next to a state-licensed casino.
But House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy says the casino’s big push this past year was to get legislators to change the process of voter authorization for casinos. Under current law, a referendum must be held once every eight years in counties that are host to a casino and many of those referendums will be held this fall.
“Next year it’s probably less likely that we will have another gambling debae because that pressure of the referendum will not be there,” McCarthy says. “That referendum will not happen for another eight years.” One idea legislators considered this year was to let casinos operating in counties which have approved at least two gambling referendums to pay the state a fee. In return, those casinos would only face a referendum if voters in the area collected enough petition signatures to place the issue of the casino’s future on the ballot.
“The casino that’s already proven themselves wouldn’t have to do it over and over again,” McCarthy says, “spending needless dollars on public relations campaigns.” But that proposal got wedded to other controversial ideas, like allowing on-line wagering and McCarthy says that doomed prospects for gambling-related legislation. McCarthy is a Democrat from Polk County which is home to the Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino in Altoona.
A referendum will be held in Polk County this fall to determine whether gaming can continue at Prairie Meadows.