Representatives of a state park and a state-licensed casino gave the Racing and Gaming Commission different views on the potential impact of the proposed new casino.in Ottumwa.
Gary Hoyer of the Catfish Bend casino in Burlington said his company is worried about the impact on the entire region.
“Southeast Iowa has a tenuous economic environment, the gaming market we believe statewide is retracting, and we hold the record down there for loss of jobs, the highest unemployment rate in the state,” Hoyer said. He says the various gambling studies all raise a lot of questions about the impact of a casino in Ottumwa on both Catfish Bend and the casino in Osceola.
Hoyer says the commission has to consider the disparities in the studies, the short distances between Ottumwa, Osceola and Burlington, and the risk particularly to Catfish Bend over the next three years. He asked the commission to deny the license to Ottumwa.
On the other side of the issue, Gary Woodrick, the general manager of the state-owned Honey Creek Resort on Rathbun Lake, says the casino would help the economy in the area. Woodrick says the casino would bring “synergy” to Honey Creek as he says they have great things for the guests to do “but to have something this big and this nice 30 miles, 35 miles from us would really help us in getting more people to come the area.” He says people might stay a few more days if they could go to the casino too.
Woodrick says Honey Creek would work well with the casino to market the area. “We we really look forward to working with this project. We see great opportunities for marketing coops and for making our marking dollars go farther, working hand in hand to really build a destination in southeast Iowa,” Woodrick said,”We’ve got a great start and we think this is perfect combination.”
Hoyer and Woodrick made their comments as part of a public hearing Tuesday on the four proposals for new gambling licenses.