Odds Are Low for New Casinos in Iowa, Commission Says

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.


JOHNSTON, Iowa - Now is not the time to try your luck applying for a casino license - at least that's what the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission said in a meeting Thursday morning.

"At least as far as I'm concerned, for the remainder of my term on the commission, which is approximately 3 years, I really have very little desire to consider any new license applications within that period of time," Jeff Lamberti, Chairman of the commission said.

The announcement comes at the heels of two recent and controversial decisions made by the commission on new casino licenses in the state. One proposed in Cedar Rapids, IA was denied in April, and another in Greene County narrowly received approval in a 3-2 vote back in June. With 19 casinos across Iowa currently - and Greene County's addition making 20, the commission says they're worried about hurting the current businesses by allowing expansion.

"We have these new facilities coming online and I think most of us agree we ought to let those get up and running before we would ever consider any new license applications," Lamberti said.

Several studies conducted in the state recently suggest the gambling market may be saturated, meaning there isn't new business to be made; new casinos, then, would "cannibalize" the business at existing locations.

"(For the) first time ever, there's casino's closing in New Jersey, Mississippi, a lot of them in question in Las Vegas," said Gary Palmer, CEO and President of Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona. "It's probably time to slow her down."

It may be an industry of high risks, but for the state of Iowa, officials aren't willing to roll the dice on expansion right now.