Gambling Changes In Iowa Seen As Good For Industry; Indian Tribe Vying For Casino Slot
Iowa is in the secondary stages of changing its gambling policies. In Johnston, which had been limited to riverboat gambling, new laws will now be bringing the casino ashore. The boat will be sold.
Harrah’s already owns a property in Johnston, the Harrah’s Hotel, and the casino will replace the current convention center that resides there. The facility is expected to have 600 slot machines and 20 casino tables of various games. At the same time, the commission approved an 8.5 million dollar expansion of the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. Prairie Meadows is located in Altoona, a suburb or Des Moines.
There are currently 18 casinos licensed to operate in Iowa, and only seven still operate as riverboats. After the Harrah’s boat operation is moved to the hotel that will leave six. There was no opposition to the move. Iowa, like most states, is motivated by the funding that casino operations bring, and the switch to land based casinos that has been happening over the last years has been a natural progression towards laxer gambling laws.
In Sioux City Iowa, the IRGC (Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission) has made a Woodbury County gambling license available. There are three bidders so far, and one of them is Ho-Chunk, which is owned by a Winnebago tribe. The other two companies who put up assurances that they have the funding are Sioux City Entertainment and Penn National Gaming. Ho-Chunk’s bid gives a clue that the Indian nations will no longer be content to operate just casinos on Indian territories. As time goes on and the Indian tribes become more entrenched in the industry they will start to flex their muscle. Buying some outside properties is the first step in that, and Sioux City would be an excellent place for them to start.
The planned property put forward by Ho-Chunk is planned at just over 152 million dollars, and the funding is already in place. The largest proposal is the Penn Gaming offer, which is putting forward the idea of two separate operations at 160 million dollars apiece.
The next step will come in January, when the three companies will give proposals. After that, the decision should come by summer of 2013.
Davenport Iowa is also gearing up for additional gaming facilities. Despite drops in gaming revenue in some venues, in many states it is one area of the economy that is bringing a steady stream of jobs to areas that have been too long without, both in the initial construction phase of the operations and afterwards.
Davenport has hired a consultant as the city itself is deciding to buy an existing riverboat operation, the Rhythm City riverboat casino. The asset purchase agreement is for 46 million, and apparently they are also looking at land based casinos.
The operation is currently split between a nonprofit group, the Riverboat Development Group, which holds the gambling license. The Isle of Capri actually owns the facility. The city council OK’d the purchase in October. This will be one of the first cities to own gambling facilities.