Racing and Gaming Commission seeks new gambling market study

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted today to set September 3rd as the deadline for applications for new casino proposals in Linn County, while also moving to study the statewide gambling market. Commission chair, Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny, says this is the next step after voters approved a referendum in March to allow gambling.

Lamberti says the way the law is written, anyone can submit an application for a casino license, not just the group that pushed for the Linn County referendum. “I don’t think there’ll be another application submitted, but we needed to set a deadline. September third will be the cutoff for any proposed applications in Linn County,” Lamberti says.

The commission also voted to seek proposals for another study of the gambling market in Iowa to help them decide if they should approve any new gambling licenses.

“We also know with the referendum that failed in Warren County, with discussions going on in Greene County, central Iowa as whole, that there’s interest elsewhere. And so while we’re going to study specifically the Linn County market — because we have a specific proposal — we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity and do market studies throughout the state of Iowa was well,” according to Lamberti, “so, it’s kind of a two-tiered track studying Linn County and then the rest of the state.”

Lamberti says the studies will give them information in two areas in deciding on whether to issue new licenses. “When you look at the law and the way the regulations are written, with respect to new applications, one of the factors is the impact on existing facilities. As to Linn County, that’s probably the most important factor,” Lamberti explains.

“But when you start looking at central Iowa, it becomes an issue of, ‘is there additional market share and if so where?’…so we want to study the state as a whole, as has been done before, to see if there is additional market share available that we don’t already have.” Lamberti doesn’t anticipate the commission imposing a moratorium on new licenses if the studies show the market is saturated.

“I really don’t believe that much at a commission level in moratoriums, because it’s only as good as the next meeting. We can certainly say after these market studies — and whatever we do as a result of those market studies — that we are not going to revisit this for some time — as has been done before,” Lamberti says.

“And I think that is why we are moving forward with these market studies, because we don’t want to have this be an endless process that carries out over years about potential new casinos, we want to bring this to an end.” He anticipates the market studies would be completed by sometime between January and March of next year.

The commission met today in at the Lakeside Casino Hotel in Oscela.