- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A group of Iowa casinos wants to make the facilities’ annual audits confidential and stop releasing them to the public.

Sixteen of the 19 state-regulated casinos in Iowa have joined a lawsuit challenging the release of those financial records, the Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/2hzpjHL ) reported. The lawsuit was filed after a development executive, who has three Native American casinos in Michigan, requested the documents.

Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke said the audits include trade secrets that shouldn’t be publicly released.

“We have no problem giving that information to our regulators, but it shouldn’t be given to our competitors,” Ehrecke said.

The reports have been public in Iowa for almost 30 years, and they are relied upon to gauge the health of the industry. Last year, Iowa’s casinos paid more than $312 million in gambling taxes and contributed nearly $40 million to charities.

The groups that rely on charitable contributions from casinos or gambling taxes have a particular interest in the financial reports.

Casino company Wild Rose, which owns three casinos in the state, abstained from joining the lawsuit. The company said not only is some information from reports already public through U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, but public transparency has long served Iowa without harming casinos.

“At this point, we didn’t see the benefit of the injunction,” Wild Rose spokeswoman Jamie Buelt said. “Since the first gaming licenses were awarded, the financial statements have been public information. We’re not sure what changed.”

Attorneys for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller declined to take a position in a response to the lawsuit on whether the records should be confidential or not.

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

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