State gambling regulators expressed displeasure Thursday over a spat between Polk County and the operators of the state’s only horse track/casino. The Polk County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 earlier this week to allow Prairie Meadows to borrow nearly $11-million to expand its casino area.
The two supervisors who voted no — Robert Brownell and John Mauro — questioned the casino’s financial figures. Casino general manager, Gary Palmer, told the Racing and Gaming Commission that it became an issue after mild winter weather led to better profits for the facility.
“Because we had a good year it was expected by some, that we should change the contract and give them more money. And I think that was the stem of the problem,” Palmer said. “But we worked it out with a majority of the board of supervisors and we are going to move ahead on that.”
Commissioner Jeff Lamberti said he was not happy to hear about the supervisors, the landlords for the track, creating problems for the previously planned expansion. “I understand they have constituencies they represent, but I would hope they also understand so do we, which is the entire state,” Lamberti said.
“And when you make those kinds of decisions I would hope that they would see that. We’re going to answer to a bigger constituency, and it just troubles me, some of the discussion I had heard.” Lamberti told Palmer his concerns was not with Prairie Meadow’s management.
“When I look at expansion and whose going to control it, I don’t think the legislature intended it to be controlled by a landlord,” Lamberti explained. Lamberti is a former lawmaker from Ankeny. Commissioner Andrea Rivera of Des Moines said she agreed with Lamberti.
“This commission serves the state of Iowa and all of the citizens in it, and it just seems to me that this is one sided where you are concerned and the supervisors of Polk County,” Rivera says. “And it’s unfortunate that they can’t overcome certain interests for the betterment of Iowa.”
Palmer told the commission they would be coming back at their next meeting to ask for permission to add 260 to 300 more slot machines to go in the new addition.