While most of the people who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing on new casino licenses had a direct ink to the four counties involved, a few spoke about the overall impact of gambling on the state. Danny Carroll, chairman of the Iowa Family Policy Center’s Board of Directors, argued that more gambling will harm children.
“We turn a blind eye to the damage, to the suffering, that comes because of expanded gambling in the State of Iowa,” Carroll said,”some how we have figured out a way to deny it, to compromise what we know to be right.” Carroll says visions of dollar signs make people look beyond the impact on families.
Newton Realtor, Dan Kelley, led the group that opposed gambling in Jasper County and saw the gambling referendum voted down.
Kelley told commissioners: “We asked our families, friends and neighbors when weighting their decision to consider the most vulnerable among us — the gambling addict and their loved ones. We asked them to consider the family broken by the weight of gambling addiction. We asked them to consider the child who goes hungry or coatless because of a parent’s compulsion. We asked them to consider the embezzler led to conviction because of a mountain of gambling debt. These people and those that would fall into the same trap, would not benefit from a casino.”
Kelley says their message overcame the proponents of gambling that were better financed. Kelley says he understands why communities might think a casino is the answer. He says being from Newton he can sympathize with those who are proud of their communities and the challenges they confront. Kelley says there’s probably no where in Iowa where the loss of manufacturer jobs has hit harder than in Jasper County. But Kelley said the loss of those jobs gave them an opportunity to redefine themselves. He says Newton is rebuilding, economically without a casino
Most of those who testified Tuesday before the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, though, spoke about one of the four casino license applications. Representative Marcia Frevert of Emmetsburg suggested a casino in Fort Dodge would eat into profits at the Wild Rose Casino in Emmetsburg.
Frevert told the commission the positive efforts of the citizens working and investing together to achieve an improved economy should be allowed to flourish. “Please do not vote to diminish and cannibalize one community for the sake of another,” Frevert said.
The Racing and Gaming Commission will make a final decision on awarding any new licenses at its meeting on May 13th.