Four new casino locations approved by gaming board - Thursday 12th of May 2005

State gambling regulators today awarded four new riverboat casino licenses for projects proposed in Waterloo, Riverside, Emmetsburg and rural Worth County.The commission denied six other license applications from prospective operators in Ottumwa, Fort Dodge, rural Franklin County, and other sites in Emmetsburg and Waterloo.

The meeting in Johnston lasted less than an hour, ending a lengthy license application process that began last November. About 400 people attended the meeting. The winners stood and cheered after the vote was announced, while many of the losers were disappointed and near tears."This is going to be the biggest boost for Waterloo since John Deere came," said Don Hoth, the president of a non-profit Black Hawk County group that is a partner in the Waterloo riverboat project with the Mississippi-based Isle of Capri Casinos. Their casino complex will be located at the interchange of Interstate Highway 380 and U.S. Highway 20.

The commission rejected proposed casino sites in downtown Waterloo and at the former Waterloo Greyhound Park. The latter casino project had been planned in a partnership with the Meskwaki Indian tribe. The commission favored an Emmetsburg project proposed by Des Moines businessman Gary Kirke while rejecting a casino project on the city's Five Island Lake.Fort Dodge Mayor Will Patterson said he was disappointed, but he said his city won't give up its efforts to obtain additional economic development. Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel said he still hopes there may be a way to obtain a license for Ottumwa. The Ottumwa application received two votes, one short of the majority needed from the five-member commission.

Each of the commissioners listed their choices for a casino licenses, and the only one to oppose any licenses was Commissioner Michael Mahaffey of Montezuma. He said it's become clear to him that Iowa doesn't need an expansion of its gambling industry."The vote I take today will make it easier to live with myself," Mahaffey said.Iowa currently has 16 casinos, including 10 aboard riverboats, three at racetracks, and three on American Indian lands.The four new riverboat casinos are expected to be up and running within the next two years. Commission Chairwoman Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake said today she favors reinstating a moratorium in July on issuing any additional casino licenses. Such a freeze had been in place from 1998 through 2004.

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