Iowa governor signs bill barring new casino licenses until 2024
June 21, 2022
Iowa just passed a new bill prohibiting the opening of new casinos in the state for the next two years. The state governor Kim Reynolds recently made the bill into real legislation by officially signing it last Friday. The new rule just barred several casinos to begin operating in the near future, especially the ones in Cedar Rapids.
The legislation will be retroactively set to June 1, 2022, and will be valid until June 1, 2024. This includes the casino project in Cedar Rapids, which is forbidden to forego until 2024. Lawmakers quietly passed the moratorium bill last May with the governor signing it just recently in June.
The original bill actually did not have mentions casinos' license moratoriums. Lawmakers only added it near the end of the legislative session. Since the amendment happens so fast, city and county officials are asking for the governor to reject the bill.
One Iowa's News Now Investigation said Reynolds and lawmakers involved in the amendment are receiving donations from groups who oppose new casinos in the state.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that this can happen seemingly in the dark of night without the city to even have the opportunity to respond,” said Tiffany O’Donnell, Mayor of Cedar Rapids in May on lawmakers’ passing the bill.
“It’s disappointing knowing the voters wanted the casino, the amount of time, money, and effort from investors, as well as from the governor’s appointed Racing and Gaming Commission, that something like this can happen so quickly without any of us knowing about it.”
The moratorium is actually aimed to limit the number of casino licenses in Iowa to 19. But the state has already filled up the number by having 19 casinos with ongoing operations. The moratorium harms new casinos from opening in the state.
The reason for the legislation according to Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver is due to “a lot of gaming fatigue”.
Adding another casino to the Iowa gambling market
Spectrum Gaming Group and the Innovation Group conducted studies on the impact of adding other casinos to Iowa. The study said a new casino in the state will only absorb some of the revenue from existing casinos and it will not garner new sources of profits or jobs. New casinos are unable to contribute to local charities and community projects since most of the funds come from local casinos’ revenue.
The Cedar Rapids casino project is expected to take $61 million of gross revenue from other casinos in Iowa.
Casino project in Cedar Rapids
The planned casino project in Cedar Rapids is backed by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) and requires $250 million to build. The entertainment complex will occupy 160,000 square feet of area located at the former Cooper’s Mill. It was supposed to have bars, restaurants, and an entertainment center until the moratorium strike.
“I expressed to her my disappointment and reassured her that Cedar Rapids would still be here when the moratorium is lifted in two years,” Tiffany O’Donnell, Cedar Rapids mayor said regarding the governor’s decision. Even so, she is still determined to complete the project.
“The city remains committed to bringing this world-class entertainment venue to Cedar Rapids. Our citizens deserve a place to find a wide range of entertainment options and we know it will spur growth around it.”