Just one of the four groups vying for a new casino license went away from the state Racing and Gaming Commission meeting happy today. Commissioner Kate Cutler made the motion to approve a new license for Lyon County. That motion was approved unanimously by the five commissioners. The commission then closed the door on the other casinos with another motion made by Cutler.
“I would move that we do not grant a gaming license to Wapello County, Tama County and Webster County,” Cutler said. That motion also was approved on a 5-0 vote. The five commission members each explained their reasoning prior to the vote, and for all five it came down to financial issues, and the concern over the impact on the state’s existing casinos.
Commissioner Paul Hayes of Urbandale said, “In some cases I believe that individual existing properties would be impacted to the point that they would not survive or their operations would be seriously reduced, resulting in employment losses and reduced financial support to the non-profit license holders,” Hayes said.
Commissioner Andrea Rivera-Harrison of Des Moines expressed similar concern that she says was generated by the economic impact studies.
She says a Webster County casino would cannabilize approximately 50-percent of its revenue from existing Iowa casinos, with a major part of that coming from Emmettsburg and Prairie Meadows, with little new gaming demand. Rivera-Harrison says it would also impact the Waterloo casino and the Diamond Jo Northwood.
Commissioner Cutler of Council Bluffs says there were many questions about financing for those who didn’t win a license, even though they knew how important it was. Cutler says they knew last summer that the financing was going to be a problem because of the economy and there were a lot of financial institutions that were no longer financing casinos. She says that was one of the things they pointed out to people, that the commission had to know where the financing would come from. Cutler says Franklin County pulled out of the process because it couldn’t get financing.
Commission chair Greg Seyfer of Cedar Rapids also mentioned the financing in summing up his decision. Seyfer says he would approve Lyon County based on the studies and minimal impact on existing casinos, the high voter approval, the out of state revenues and a “very sufficient and well put together financial package.”
The commission members said prior to their vote today they would not be ready to look at any new licenses again for at least another three to five years.
Listen to the individual comments of each commissioner below: