- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa should focus on reinvesting in existing casinos rather than licensing any new operations, a consultant hired by state officials to look into the issue recommended.

Rich Baldwin, managing director of Union Gaming Analytics, expressed his opinion Thursday to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, the Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1lauCbx ).

“We do not believe there are any underserved counties in the state of Iowa,” he said.

Representatives from Marquette Advisors of Minneapolis echoed concerns that new casinos would simply take business from existing casinos.

The consultants were hired by the commission to conduct independent evaluations of Iowa’s gambling markets.

Backers of two proposed casinos disagreed with the consultants. The Cedar Rapids Development Group wants to build a $150 million casino in downtown Cedar Rapids. Wild Rose Entertainment wants to build a $40 million facility in Jefferson, which is in Greene County.

Both told the commission the latest evaluations were based on incomplete data. They added that their projects would create hundreds of jobs and spur growth.

“I think those studies have fatal flaws,” said Doug Gross, an attorney for the Cedar Rapids investment group. “The commission needs to review those studies closely.”

The state currently has more than 20 casinos, and existing casino operators have complained that the market is getting crowded. They said additional businesses would force layoffs and hurt local nonprofit groups that use charitable money given by current casinos.

Jeff Lamberti, chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, said the market study is just one element of the information the five-member group will consider when deciding on new licenses. A decision on the Cedar Rapids casino license is scheduled for April. The Jefferson license will be decided on in June.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com