A subcommittee of the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee forwarded a bill this week that would equate to an 8% tax cut for casinos statewide by 2024.
The bill would phase out the tax on Iowa casinos’ promotional play receipts over the next three years. Promotional play is a marketing tool casinos use to encourage customers to visit their facilities, such as giveaways and free play dollars.
Currently, casinos in Iowa are required to pay taxes on the first $25.8 million they spend per year.
“If there’s a giveaway or promotion, these are things we cannot deduct, which other industries and other jurisdictions are able to deduct,” said Jesus Aviles, CEO of Q Casino in Dubuque.
Iowa is increasingly rare among states in taxing these dollars, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian J. Ohorilko said.
“Iowa was an early adopter of (promotional play),” he said. “Since then, states around us have adopted it without the tax.”
That has effectively dissuaded a significant number of players from bringing or keeping their money in Iowa, according to Wes Ereckhe, CEO of Iowa Gaming Association, the industry’s lobbying group.
“We have four or five (more) casinos coming onboard in Nebraska, Illinois not having (the tax) on the eastern side,” he told the Iowa Senate subcommittee. “None of the tribal casinos in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin pay this tax either.”
Iowa’s casinos also have not reached the $25.8 million cap — after which they can use promotional play tax-free — for years, according to data from the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals.
The bill would lower that cap by 20% for three years, until July 1, 2024, when promotional play would be tax-free.
Iowa Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, was on the subcommittee and voted to pass it on to the full Senate Ways and Means Committee, on which she is the ranking Democrat.
“I understand what’s happening and why we need to do it,” she said. “I just want more information, because I know a lot of people in my caucus are going to be asking me about this.”
Jochum has asked the inspections and appeals department to outline how much casinos would gain from this legislation and how much revenue the state might lose. Jochum said the bill is likely to be amended, but she does not expect any partisan problems.
The other two senators on the subcommittee were Republicans.
“At some point in time, we have to get off the starting block and begin addressing this issue,” said Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs.