The location of Iowa’s newest casino is raising critical concerns from the CEO of a nearby homeless shelter. Candace Gregory, who runs the Open Door Mission in Omaha, Nebraska, says the new Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake, Iowa, is only eight-tenths of a mile away.
The casino, run by the Ponca Tribe, opened earlier this month and Gregory fears the impact will soon be felt.
“It’s within walking distance of a very vulnerable population that already has a high addiction level,” Gregory says. “I truly believe the Open Door Mission and other nonprofits will be left picking up the pieces of broken lives again, and the social issues that are going to be created, it will be costly to taxpayers.”
The new gambling hall is located almost within sight of the homeless mission, which serves many hundreds of meals daily and offers shelter for up to 600 people nightly.
“We now have a gambling casino right in our back yard, within walking distance, so we’re very accessible,” Gregory says. “The rates of problem gambling in the homeless population are significantly higher, in fact, nine times higher than the general population.”
The mission is already stretched beyond its limits serving the homeless population, with some people having to sleep on the floor on cold nights. The casino, she says, is now going to be a constant temptation for people with very little to lose.
“It attracts people, not just the vulnerable population but the people who prey on the vulnerable population,” Gregory says. “There’s a wave of human and economic consequences that are crippling to hundreds of households.”
Carter Lake is in Iowa, though it sits on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. The waterway changed course in 1877 and a portion of Iowa ended up on the “wrong” side of the river. After multiple legal battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the section of land belonged to Iowa.