Hundreds sit and wait to comment on gambling license proposals.

Hundreds sit and wait to comment on gambling license proposals.

A standing-room-only crowd showed up for today’s Racing and Gaming Commission hearing in Johnston on new casino licenses.

The commissioners are giving supporters from Lyon, Tama, Wappello and Webster Counties three minutes each to speak in favor or against a casino.

No one spoke on either side for Lyon County as the hearing began.

The first speakers from Tama County were representatives of the Meskwaki Casino in Tama. The general manager of the casino, Dan Stromer, said another casino would hurt business at the Native American casino. Stromer said if he was in the position of those wanting a new casino he would say stress — as they do — that a new casion would expand the market, create new jobs and add economic benefits.

“But then comes of the reality of this…Can it really be done?” Stromer asked.  “I think there’s a lot of studies that have been done recently that point to the contrary.”

John Papakee, a vice chair on the Meskwaki Council, said the casino offers many benefits to the community as it is the largest employer in the county and 85 percent of their employees come from outside the tribe.  “Our employees are from surrounding communities and our casino supports our employees with steady employment along with a substantial benefits package,” Papakee said.  “Will two casinos in one county add more jobs or will it just take from one another, thus reducing opportunities for all?”

Papakee argues a second casino in Tama County would hurt their casino and their tribe.

“The casino’s revenue has opened up opportunities for our children that did not exist before. It is for the children of our nation that we work, struggle and sacrifice,” Papakee said.  “…There are peripheral benefits to the local communities where they all profit as well.  The revenue from the Meskwaki Casino and Hotel is spent locally.”

The general manager of the state-owned Honey Creek Resort spoke in favor of a new casino in Ottumwa, saying it would go well with the resort and give visitors something else to do in the area and might lead to longer stays at the resort.