Posted on: June 21, 2022, 11:56h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2022, 01:06h.

The Iowa casino moratorium blocking the state Racing and Gaming Commission from issuing new gaming licenses for at least two years has received Governor Kim Reynolds’ (R) signature.

Iowa casino moratorium Cedar Rapids
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs legislation. One such bill Reynolds signed recently prohibits the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission from issuing new casino licenses until July 2024. (Image: AARP)

The Iowa Legislature last month sent House File 2497 to the governor’s desk. The gaming package primarily deals with regulatory matters, such as cashless wagering. But lawmakers slid in a caveat that prohibits new gaming concessions from being granted until at least July 1, 2024.

Reynolds signed the legislation with no public comment. The governor’s website said only that she signed numerous bills into law last Friday, June 17, with one being “an act relating to gambling regulation and wagering.”

With HF 2497 now law, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) is barred from approving new casino licenses until July 2024. There are exceptions, however, including the allowance for the IRGC to sign off on current concessions seeking to relocate their operations to a new site in the same county.

The IRGC can also approve the sale of a casino license to another approved company, so long as the casino does not physically move. The state can additionally hold a competitive bidding opportunity for a gaming license should a casino shutter and surrender the privilege.

Cedar Rapids Expresses Grievances

The two-year moratorium on new casino licenses was pushed by the Iowa gaming industry. The state’s 19 commercial riverboat and land-based casinos successfully argued to Des Moines lawmakers that a stable and controlled gaming market is needed in wake of the pandemic and casinos being built in neighboring Nebraska.

A renewed effort in Cedar Rapids from a group of local businesspeople was once again lobbying for the state to allow its second-most populated city to have a casino of its own. The Cedar Rapids Development Group includes roughly 80 investors.

The collective development firm was denied a casino license in 2014 and 2017, the IRGC at the time citing market saturation concerns for the denials. The Cedar Rapids Development Group was back at the negotiating table in 2022, this time campaigning that its $250 million resort would benefit local charities. The casino — dubbed “Cedar Crossing” — also pledged to build a new flood wall on the west side of the Cedar River.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, who wrote Reynolds in early June asking her to veto the two-year casino moratorium component of HF 2497. O’Donnell said this week that the governor relayed that she believes a temporary halting of the state gaming industry will better allow for a study to be performed on the impact a Cedar Rapids casino would have on the overall market.

Cashless Wagering Expands

Iowa is the latest state to permit cashless gambling on its casino floors. HF 2497 eliminates the need for patrons to possess cold hard cash in order to play a slot machine, make a wager on a table game, or stake a sports outcome.

With the bill now law, Iowa casinos are allowed to offer digital wallets to their customers that can be fully funded over the internet. Iowa joins Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio in allowing cashless betting on its licensed casino floors.