A market survey on Iowa gambling that was released in February is now getting noticed in Nebraska. The report was commissioned by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to determine if the state’s gambling market could support new casinos, and it details how much money comes in from other states.
It shows Nebraska gamblers spent nearly $327-million in Iowa’s casinos last year, nearly one-quarter of the $1.4 billion the gambling halls took in. Nebraska state Senator Russ Karpisek laments the findings, saying that money could have been better spent in Nebraska. “That’s a lot of money,” Karpisek says. “That’s just the money that goes. That doesn’t account for all of the jobs that are created out of it, the things that they use at the casino. If you extrapolate out those numbers, it’s a lot more than just the 327-million.”
Karpisek has been a supporter of expanding gaming in Nebraska, but saw his bill to let voters decide the future of casinos in Nebraska killed by the legislature earlier this year. He’s being forced out of the legislature by term limits, but says he’s looking for another voice to pick up where he left off. “I’m hoping that some of the people who have supported me and my efforts will bring it back again,” Karpisek says. “I just don’t understand why we’re so afraid to let the voters vote on it, especially for a bunch of people that the only way you can get there is to be voted in but then we don’t want to let people vote. To me, it seems just absurd.”
Backers of casino gambling in Nebraska say it is not likely the state will allow casinos anytime soon, but the report by Union Gaming Analytics predicts it will happen — eventually. It says the most immediate risk to Iowa is from expansion of the current facilities in Wisconsion and Illinois.
The report says most of the money spent by Nebraskans in Iowa gaming facilities was at casinos along the Missouri River, primarily in Sioux City and Council Bluffs. Of all money generated in Iowa’s 18 casinos last year, the report says only 53-percent came from Iowans.
By Tyson Havranek, KHAS, Hastings