Des Moines Mayer Cownie against casino complex in Urbandale

Sep 27, 2012 9:20 AM

Des Moines’ mayor is among city officials who say they don’t like the idea of a casino complex being built in neighboring Urbandale.

Urbandale officials have talked with representatives of Fair Grounds LLC, a group owned by Gary Kirke and Mike Richards. They oversee Wild Rose Entertainment, which operates casinos in Clinton and Emmetsburg.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie told The Des Moines Register that Iowa has too much gambling already.

“I don’t stand in favor of the expansion of gambling in the state of Iowa at all, and I wouldn’t be in favor of this expansion, either,” Cownie said.

Des Moines Councilman Skip Moore said an Urbandale casino would cut into profits at the county-owned Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona. Those profits are used to defray bond payments for the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. Without that revenue, taxpayers would have to pony up.

Des Moines’ share of profits from Prairie Meadows runs from $5 million to $6 million a year. The money goes for police and fire protection in the city, bridges and streets and helps the city keep property taxes in check.

Gambling industry critic Mitch Henry, of Des Moines, said Prairie Meadows returns nearly 20 percent of its adjusted gross receipts to the community. Privately owned casinos, such as the one proposed for Urbandale, are required under Iowa law to provide only 3 percent, he said.

The Urbandale casino developers are expected to make an appearance at an Urbandale planning and zoning commission meeting Oct. 8. If the commission were to approve the project, it would go before the City Council.

Chairman Jeff Lamberti of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission said the commission hasn’t talked about the Urbandale plan and hasn’t scheduled any discussion so far. But he said he talked to one of the developers, Kirke, several months ago about a second casino in Polk County.

Their talks didn’t get into specifics, Lamberti said.

Contact us at [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter