Legislators have voted to put the brakes on a proposed casino in Cedar Rapids and the proposal is headed to Governor Kim Reynolds for her signature.
The plan would create an immediate moratorium, to prevent the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission from considering any casino license applications over the next two years.
Linn County voters approved a gambling referendum in November. Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt of Cedar Rapids said that means her community is being singled out. “This is incredibly unfair,” Running-Marquardt said. “People have been navigating and working with the Gaming Commission and then all of a sudden we see a moratorium pop up.”
Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta said a moratorium on new state casino licenses is a good idea amid all the gambling activity happening in surrounding states. “It gives us an opportunity to look at what’s happening in our competitive states and then make a decision from there if we want to expand the land-based casinos in the state,” Lundgren said.
Legislators have a responsibility to ensure new casinos don’t siphon customers away from existing casinos, Lundgren said and she suggested lawmakers may set new limits on gambling regulators’ authority in the future. “I think this moratorium just allows us to step back and take a breather and see how we want to move forward — if we want to make any changes in how and why the commission would act going forward,” Lundgren said.
Representative Steve Hansen of Sioux City said as casino construction starts in Nebraska, a moratorium on new casinos in Iowa is short-sighted. “The western Iowa casinos from Sioux City down to Council Bluffs, we will be impacted by Nebraska gambling, as will the whole state of Iowa,” Hansen said, “and I think we are going to end up wanting to increase licenses elsewhere in the state of Iowa to pick up that revenue that we’re going to lose.”
Senators considered and approved the moratorium for the first time Monday morning and the House approved it a few hours later. The bill that includes the moratorium on new casino licenses also would let Iowa casinos simulcast out-of-state horse races like the Kentucky Derby and take bets. The package passed the legislature by a 95-34 margin.
An earlier version of the bill would have allowed Iowans to bet on video game competitions, but references to E-sports were removed from the bill.