Legislators don’t follow Culver’s casino lead

Here’s the Radio Iowa story.   None of the legislative leaders from either party are following Governor Culver’s lead today on the issue of gambling.  Shortly before nine o’clock, Culver said the Racing & Gaming Commission should approve casino licenses for Fort Dodge, Ottumwa, Tama & Larchwood.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Democratic legislative leaders said they’d leave it up to the commission to make the decision.  “If we get to the place where the legislature’s going to decide how many and where the licenses are going to be, I think that’s a very messy place,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs). 

Shortly after 11 a.m., Republican legislative leaders said they’d leave it up to the commission to make the decision.  “I’m actually most surprised he’d wade into the board’s decision,” said House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).

UPDATE:  One of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates issued a statement in reaction.  Read it below.

BURLINGTON – Gov. Chet Culver’s call today for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to approve casino licenses for four more communities is fueled by “his desperation to win another term and his own compulsion to grow state government,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats said today.

Speaking at a campaign stop in this southeastern Iowa community, Vander Plaats also criticized legislative efforts to make Iowa the first state in the nation to legalize in-state internet gambling.
“Taking more money from people hooked on gambling by our state officials isn’t leadership, it’s just plain irresponsible.  We don’t need to increase the number of individuals or communities dependent on gambling and we sure don’t need to increase the state budget’s addiction to it, either,” he said. “These moves to allow internet gambling and open casinos in four more places are just two more steps along the path that Terry Branstad set us on in the 1980s when he joined with Democratic legislators to create the state lottery, open casinos and destroy the lives of many Iowans for the sake of generating more revenue for state government to spend.”
Vander Plaats added, “As governor, I would do many things in office different than Chet Culver does.  I guarantee you one of them is that I would not go to the Racing and Gaming Commission and beg them to open four more casinos.  Our communities need innovative companies that create income for Iowans instead of places that are going to take money from people’s pockets. Chet Culver said today that more gambling is economic development.  That just proves again that we need a governor who can really open Iowa for business instead of doing what the past three governors have done, which is invite more and more gambling.”
Vander Plaats cited projections that legalized in-state internet gambling would bring in $11.5 million to the state.
“Are our state officials really so desperate for money and short-sighted that they couldn’t find $11.5 million in savings in a $6 billion annual budget? This is the problem we face with Chet Culver and some legislators.  They think the answer is to take more money from Iowans.  I think the answer is to cut state spending,” he said. “One way to do it is to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘No more new gambling licenses.’ That’s what I’ll do as governor.”

And the Iowa Family Policy Center issued a statement which accomplishes two goals:  criticizing Culver’s action today and former Governor Terry Branstad’s decision to signs bills legalizing casino gambling, the lottery and parimutual wagering.

3/4/10 Pleasant Hill, IA –  Fresh off his photo shoot in Iraq, Governor Culver returned to Des Moines this week to promote an idea that only serves to illustrate the depth of his disconnect from the realities on the ground in the state he is supposed to be leading. 

This morning, the Governor sent a letter to state gambling regulators urging them to allow the addition of four new casinos in the state.  In an obvious effort to appease the contractors who would build the casinos, and the gambling interests that would stand to profit, Culver is clearly communicating his willingness to pander to potential campaign contributors at the expense of Iowa families.

IFPC Action president Chuck Hurley said that the Governor’s plan “is a wrong-headed attempt to appear as if he has a plan for leading Iowa out of our current economic crisis.”  Pointing out that Iowa has already been hit hard by the national recession, Hurley said, “No governor who cared about the wellbeing of his state would expand an industry that increases the occurrence of home foreclosures, bankruptcies, embezzlements, divorces, and suicides.” He went on to say, “The Governor’s proposal to expand gambling in Iowa is reckless and will only make matters worse.”

This is not the first time an Iowa Governor has turned to gambling revenue to make up for having grown government too fast. In 1989, Governor Terry Branstad and the Legislature legalized gambling in Iowa. Then, as is the case now, government had grown at an unsustainable rate, forcing elected officials to look for new ways to take money from Iowa residents.  According to Hurley, “If gambling were the answer, the 17 casinos we already have, plus the lottery, should have enabled us to avoid budget shortfalls and keep from taking a hit during this recession.” He went on to say, “Instead, we know that Iowa lawmakers have become addicted to gambling ‘revenue’ and have set us on a path to higher taxes and expanded gambling.  The only people who benefit from an expansion of gambling are the politicians and the gambling interests, but certainly not the people of Iowa.”

Hurley continued, “Instead of flying over a war zone to collect pictures for his campaign e-mails, Governor Culver ought to spend some time talking with and trying to understand the people of Iowa. With 10 months of his term in office remaining, Governor Culver still has time to help create an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive, industry can grow, and families might be able to plan for a future in the state.  Expanding gambling would do just the opposite.”

 “Maybe the current political environment is causing Governor Culver to think that expanding gambling will position him to become governor for life,” said Hurley.  “Iowa is in real trouble if his idea of green job creation is to recycle the bad ideas of his predecessors.” 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Alex Freed says

    Iowa’s state regulated casinos had a $12 million decline in gambling profits during the first half of fiscal year 2010. Revenues at Iowa’s pari-mutuel tracks in Altoona, Council Bluffs and Dubuque were down by more than 7 percent. Terrible’s Casino located in Osceola, Iowa filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2009. The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska closed a casino it operates near Onawa, Iowa in July 2009.

    The gambling industry in Iowa has reached market saturation. Iowa has a limited number of gamblers with a fixed amount of money to bet, especially during these tough economic times.