Jack Ketterer

The man who has overseen most of the major advances in the casino gambling industry in Iowa announced today that he is retiring.

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator, Jack Ketterer, says he has been considering retirement for the last couple of years, but there were major issues that had to be completed.

“You know we were tied up with the applications of the facilities (for gambling licenses) in 2010, and then last year we had the (online) poker report and the advance deposit wagering, and I really didn’t want to dump that on the staff,” Ketterer says.

The 64-year-old Ketterer led the commission in the early 1980’s when casinos, horse racing and dog racing were introduced, then left for a job in Arizona in 1988. He returned to the state in 1993 and says his 20 some years on the job have been interesting.

 “It’s a vast industry that we regulate because most states have two separate commissions for parimutuel racing and for gaming, and we have everything, so you deal with a lot of different people,” Ketterer explained.

Ketterer says he has been lucky to always have great commissioners to work with and said he’s always had great support from the governors he’s worked with. The development and expansion of gambling has been controversial, but Ketterer is pleased with the way things have gone under his leadership.

“We had a lot of trying times,” Ketterer said and laughed. “But I think the main thing is that we, we regulated the industry, we never had any major scandals, we upheld the integrity of the industry. And at the same time we had a climate that fostered a lot of economic development in Iowa.”

Ketterer said the economic impact of the industry on the state may be the thing he is most proud of. “When you look at all of the racing and gaming facilities, the number of jobs that they created, and the number of amenities and suppliers around them that they supported, I think in trying to minimize what many people feel are the negative impacts of gambling, I think I probably remember that.”

Greg Seyfer of Cedar Rapids has the longest tenure on the current commission. He says Ketterer brought a lot to the industry.

“His knowledge is I think just unsurpassed in the country. He does a very good job of not being an advocate, but giving us all the information we need to be able to make a decision,” Seyfer says.

Ketterer will leave the job on March 30th, and the commission today appointed its director of gaming, Brian Ohorilko to succeed him.

“You know these are big shoes to fill, Jack Ketterer is man of great integrity, great character and is an exceptional regulator. You know, I am fortunate I’ve had the opportunity to work with Jack over the years and learn from him,” Ohorilko told reporters.

Ohorilko doesn’t anticipate any major changes when he takes over. “My goal is really…with that knowledge that I’ve learned from Jack and my experiences as a fan in both the racing and gaming industries and working in the industry to just continue to maintain and serve the citizens in Iowa with the highest integrity of gaming,” Ohorilko. “You know we have great leadership by the commission and we have great staff, and I am confident we can fulfill that goal.”

Ohorilko is 31, and an Iowa State University graduate who lives in Mitchellville. He must be confirmed by the Iowa Senate. If confirmed, he would start in April and serve out the remainder of Ketterer’s term which expires on April 30, 2014.