GAMING STUDY: Greene Co. Casino Backers Undeterred

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Plans for two new casinos have overwhelming support in their communities.  Two new studies are raising questions about whether the state can support more gaming.

Iowans have their luck of the draw at 18 casinos across the state.  A proposed $40 million Wild Rose casino in Greene County would add more machines and tables to the mix.  It could also take away business from existing casinos.

“We know that they're going to take market shares from other casinos.  That's just the way it's going to work, but we think competition is a good thing,” says Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore.

Baltimore represents Jefferson at the Statehouse.  Two consulting firms hired by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission found similar findings that a new Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson would have a “significant cannibalization impact."

Of the projected $28 million in gaming revenue, an estimated $6 million would be “new” revenue.  The study showed the remaining $22 million would come from casinos like Prairie Meadows.  Wild Rose Casino in Emmetsburg could stand to lose more than $3 million.

“We wouldn't be applying for Greene County if we thought we were going to put Emmetsburg in any danger of closure,” says Tom Timmons, President and COO of Wild Rose Entertainment.

The impact on Prairie Meadows is an estimated $6 million in lost revenue.  Timmons says that adds up to about 3 percent of Prairie Meadows revenue.

“From an impact statement, that's not very much,” he says.

“They're drawing their customers from Greene County  so what's wrong with having that flow go the other direction for a change,” says Baltimore.

Today, the Governor said it’s up to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to decide if the state can afford to gamble on a new casino.

“I've never tried to influence or interfere with their decision-making process and I have confidence that they will do what they feel is the appropriate thing,” says Branstad.

Wild Rose and Greene County will present its proposal to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission next Thursday.  The five-person panel is expected to vote on a casino license in June.  Officials say the market impact studies will play a role in their decision, but how much of a factor is up to the individual commissioner.

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