Casino moratorium emerges during Iowa legislature’s closing hours

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has overwhelmingly voted to extend a moratorium on new casinos in Iowa until 2029, but the Senate adjourned for the year early this morning without bring the bill up for a vote. The current moratorium will expire July 1.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, said this is a policy decision for lawmakers, not state gambling regulators. “I think it fits in perfectly with our role,” Kaufmann said during House debate. “I think this fits in perfectly with making sure the Racing and Gaming Commission can do their job.”

Kaufmann called the commission’s rules for considering casino license applications “vague” and the proposal strengthens those guidelines.

Representative Sami Scheetz, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the proposed rules would effectively block Cedar Rapids from getting a casino license. “It’s not the right or the prerogative of the legislature to deny the second largest city in our state and its voters, citizens the right to have a casino operation,” Scheetz said.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday the House approved the extended casino moratorium and new regulations for casino applications on a 71-21 vote. The Senate must approve the policy, too, before it could go to the governor for review.