New Southwest Iowa Casino Worries State Budget Writers

Jan 16, 2018

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley  (R-New Hartford) is warning about competition from a proposed new Indian-run casino in Carter Lake in southwest Iowa.  

At a statehouse budget briefing, Grassley said if the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska proceeds with its plans, the new casino would draw gamblers away from the three state-regulated casinos in Council Bluffs.  

Those include Ameristar, Harrah’s and Horseshoe.   

Grassley is concerned because taxes from the existing casinos go into the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, but the new casino wouldn’t pay Iowa taxes.

Nearly 30% of the casino taxes in the fund known as RIIF come from the three Council Bluffs casinos.

“And so that's something I'd like for us to keep in mind that of $188 million, 29 percent of that comes from the casinos in southwest Iowa,” Grassley said.   “So if we get another one down there what does that look like.”

The National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of the Interior cleared the way for the tribe’s casino plan in November. Now the city of Council Bluffs has sued to keep the Ponca Tribe from building in Carter Lake just seven miles away.

Grassley said growth in gaming tax revenue, the funding source for RIIF, has slowed significantly recently.  

In Fiscal Year 2017, growth was 0.6 percent.  

For this fiscal year and next, the Revenue Estimating Conference is projecting growth at one percent. 

“Development of the Carter Lake casino would have a negative impact on gaming tax revenue and RIIF which could be significant,” aides wrote in a document for the budget briefing.