While the state gambling treatment program has seen an increase this year in the number of people served, some in the state are looking at a new casino as a boost to their community. Jeff Gallagher’s family has operated a True Value hardware store in the northwest Iowa town of Larchwood for nearly six decades, and he says he pushed to get the Grand Falls Casino Resort approved by local voters and state regulators out of concern for the community’s future.
“And our hope is that this money is gonna make life better in small towns. We all like living in small towns but we all know we give up some things when we live in small towns,” Gallagher explains, “And we’re hoping that this money will help (alleviate) some of those things we have to give up so the standard of living will go up in all the cities of Lyon County.”
Gallagher, is president of the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation, and says the casino will create jobs and bring some $2.5 million to the county each year for schools, parks and other projects. The casino site is about a 20-minute drive from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Gallagher says the location was chosen strategically.
“Sioux Falls in South Dakota…is a metro area of probably 250,000 people..that’s what makes this resort possible, is that it’s that close to that population base,” Gallagher say, “and you see that a lot in Iowa. Most of the casinos are on the borders.” Gallagher says the people the casino brings into the area will help in many other ways.
Gaagher says there are some simple things, such as getting more people to buy produce in the grocery store, which turns things over faster and it stays fresher. The site is also just a few miles from a border with Minnesota, and may also draw visitors from northeast Nebraska. That might make economic sense for Iowa, but it also raises some potential concerns for counselors who treat problem gamblers from surrounding states.
Amy Bloch supervises the gambling treatment program at Jackson Recovery Centers in Sioux City, about 90 minutes south. Bloch says she’s seen patients from outside Iowa who can’t afford treatment, but aren’t eligible for state funds that can drastically reduce the cost.
“I think that is the most difficult part about having casinos that are right on state lines, because people are gonna cross over. It’s something we run into a lot with being right on the border,” Bloch says. Bloch says insurance rarely covers counseling for problem gambling, so she tries to refer patients to resources across the border.
But she says some wind up driving long distances to get help. That’s something Joe Massa, the casino’s C.E.O, says the company is concerned about. “We’re looking at that and we’re studying it and looking at some possible things that we could do to alleviate that problem. I don’t know exactly what those things are yet, but we are taking a hard look at that,” Massa says.
Massa says options could include encouraging counselors in the region to work together to treat patients from outside their own states. He also points out that many surrounding states, including South Dakota, offer their own forms of gambling and funding for addiction treatment. The Grand Falls Casino Resort is scheduled to open near Larchwood sometime next summer.