A plan to dramatically reduce the number of state agents assigned to police the 18 state-licensed casinos has won initial approval at the statehouse.
Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke says the role of those agents is far different than it was when “riverboat gambling” began in Iowa 22 years ago.
“These were riverboats cruising in multiple jurisdiction waters and who should have authority? Could you have local police? Not necessarily, so that’s how the DCI was placed on there,” Ehrecke says.
State Division of Criminal Investigation agents no longer conduct those kind of inspections and many of their other original duties are now handled by private security firms. Iowa casinos currently are paying to have 115 state agents on hand to monitor operations. Within three years, just 54 state agents would be working in the casinos under the proposal which has won the approval of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ehrecke says the agents losing their casino jobs could be promoted or transferred to other assignments.
“Just not everyone’s going to be in gaming enforcement,” Ehrecke says. “They would transition them out into other areas.”
According to Ehrecke, the state’s gambling industry has least 26 and in some cases as many as 60 private contractors at each casino to provide security.
“We have to have a security plan approved every year by the Racing and Gaming Commission that assures we can protect the safety of the patrons and employees, so we have our own security detail along with local law enforcement back-up to handle a lot of the front-line duties,” he says.
Ehrecke says the casinos expect the state agents who would remain on the job would primarily be on guard for money laundering and other financial improprieties, as the casino’s private security squads handle other tasks, like checking IDs.
This proposal to reduce the number of state agents at Iowa casinos is tucked into a larger bill that outlines state spending for the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.