report presented to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission showed that 17 state-regulated commercial casinos provided about us$ 280 million in payroll and benefits for nearly 10,000 employees.
The casinos purchased about us$ 294 million in equipment and supplies, and paid about us$ 379 million in taxes, mostly in state gambling taxes. The industry also contributed about us$ 83 million to charities and in contributions to city and county governments.
“We are a viable part of Iowa’s economy. I think this shows we are succeeding in an extraordinary way,” said Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, a casino industry trade group.
The report doesn’t include data from Iowa’s three American Indian casinos, which do not publicly disclose their finances.
The state commission has placed a special emphasis on having Iowa casinos spend money with Iowa vendors. That’s because the Iowa Legislature authorized the establishment of the state’s casino industry in the late 1980s with the goal of bolstering economic development and creating additional tourism.
However, there were initially complaints from state regulators that Iowa casinos weren’t trying hard enough to do business with Iowa vendors, especially when purchasing food products such as meat served in casino restaurants.
Jack Ketterer, the commission’s administrator, said today he believes the Buy Iowa program was as successful in 2008 as it ever has been and he is pleased with the efforts of the casino industry. However, there are some situations where Iowa casinos have no choice but to make purchases outside of the state, such as purchasing slot machines and buying advertising in the Omaha, media market, he added.
Ehrecke cited the economic impact report as one reason why the Iowa Legislature should continue to exempt casinos from a statewide ban on smoking in most public places that took effect last year.
While Iowa’s casino industry showed a 4.9 % increase in gross gambling revenues last year, Ehrecke noted that Illinois showed a 20.9 % drop, while Colorado had a decrease of 12.3 % in casino revenues. Both Illinois and Colorado implemented smoking bans in casinos last year.