A bill passed late in the legislative session that places a two-year hold on new gambling licenses will impact the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s meeting Thursday in Emmetsburg.
Racing and Gaming administrator, Brian Ohorilko says he anticipates the Commission will pause the licensing process. “At least at this point, it’ll be difficult to do much in terms of moving forward with an application process and until that moratorium is out — if indeed that bill goes into law,” Ohorilko.
Governor Kim Reynolds has not yet indicated if she will sign the casino moratorium bill into law. Organizers in Cedar Rapids wanted to Commission to consider an application for a casino there after the Linn County gambling referendum passed.
“The Commission at the March meeting had indicated that they were prepared to accept applications and that occurred after the commission had been approached by stakeholders in that community that they were ready to file an application. Obviously, that was after the referenda had passed in November 2021,” he says.
Ohorilko says the process was just getting started. “There really hasn’t been any due diligence or any considerable amount of time put in by the commission members with regard to the process,” Ohorilkoh says.
Many things could change in the Iowa casino landscape in two years if the bill goes into law. One of those is the start up of gambling in Nebraska. “Rules have been filed in that state, ground is broken in a number of locations, the different locations have different timelines. I think it’s possible that we’ll see some temporary facilities this fall or winter,” Ohorilko says.
He says all of the Nebraska facilities will likely be up and running next year — which will have an impact on Iowa casinos. Ohorilko says it’s hard to know what other changes might happen if the moratorium happens.
“Two years can go fast, but it’s also a lot of time in terms of economic conditions with respect to casinos,” he says. “If you were to look two years back from today’s date, no one would have expected the ups and downs that that industry would have gone through and so, so I can’t say for sure.” Two other attempts to get a gambling license in Cedar Rapids were denied.