Iowa Lawmakers Approve Two-year Moratorium on New Casino Licenses

Surprise, surprise — casinos don't want more casinos

by - Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 3:25

Gov. Kim Reynolds
Gov. Reynolds has yet to sign the bill.

Iowa lawmakers approved a comprehensive gaming package yesterday that sets out some regulatory standards for the industry. However, in an unexpected move, a moratorium on new casino licenses was included in House File 2497.

The ban would put a stop to the Cedar Rapids casino project

The legislation proposes a two-year ban on the issuance of new casino licenses, a move that would block the efforts of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) to launch a casino in Cedar Rapids.

Speaking of the new restriction, Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell said:

“It’s incredibly disappointing that this can happen seemingly in the dark of night without the city to even have the opportunity to respond. 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.”

Voters in Linn County, where Cedar Rapids is located, had previously approved plans to issue a gaming license to P2E in a ballot referendum in last year’s November election.

However, there has been suggestions from casino operators in the state that the local industry is already saturated and cannot support another casino. There are currently 19 state-licensed casinos in the state, all of which are believed to be opposed to the new license.

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chair of the House State Government Committee, said that a two-year suspension on new commercial casino licenses would maintain an “equilibrium” with the current operators and protect “the nonprofits that the casinos currently spend money on.”

Other lawmakers believe that this is unfair and that Cedar Rapids should be allowed its share of gambling revenue and the jobs the industry would create.

Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt said:

“This is incredibly unfair. People have been navigating and working with the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, and then all of a sudden we see a moratorium pop up. We give the power to the Gaming Commission for these licenses for a reason. It’s supposed to be fair.”

P2E has provided the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission with two casino plans for consideration. The first is a $165 million casino in Cedar Crossing. This would have 840 slot machines, 22 table games, and a retail sportsbook. The second proposal is for a $105 million casino in the same location but with fewer gaming facilities including 550 slots, 15 table games, and a retail sportsbook.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has yet to sign the bill and can opt to allow the Cedar Rapids casino project to go ahead.

Image credit: Iowa Public Radio Images / CC BY-SA 2.0

Danny Tang

Reporter & gambling industry analyst covering the land-based and online casino industry in the United States.

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