Senate GOP leader says casino taxes a 2021 discussion


Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona.

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate says the 2021 Iowa legislature may debate tax changes for the 19 state-licensed casinos.

It’s not a sure bet at this point, but Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny said legislators have begun discussing options. “That’s an industry that has been hurt severely through the pandemic, as many others have as well,” Whitver told Radio Iowa. “We want to make sure that those jobs are saved, that industry is still strong and so that’s something we would consider.”

Casinos were among the businesses Governor Reynolds ordered to close on March 17. Casinos were allowed to reopen June 1.

“There has been an increased push to look at some of the taxation regarding casinos,” Whitver said.

The state-licensed casinos paid more than $230 million in taxes to the state in the last fiscal year. Those taxes are deposited in a “Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund” and used on a wide variety of projects. House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford said he and other House Republicans have not discussed tax changes, but Grassley said they’re keeping an eye on looming competition for Council Bluffs and Sioux City casinos from Nebraska, where voters just legalized casino-style gaming — because it may reduce the amount of casino tax money for infrastructure projects.

“That could have long-term consequences,” Grassley said during a Radio Iowa interview.

Nebraska voters have just legalized casinos within race tracks in their state and some developers have said they hope to open casinos in Omaha, Lincoln and South Sioux City by this time next year.

“When it comes to the western part of the state and the pressure that’s going to come from the Nebraska gaming, the competition from across the river there,” Grassley said, “as we’re making those decisions when it comes to infrastructure, that’s definitely a part of the conversation.”

The western Iowa casinos have been generating about a third of all the gambling taxes paid to the State of Iowa.



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