In the American state of Iowa and it has reportedly been revealed that a senior legislator received a political action committee (PAC) donation of $23,000 before introducing a measure that looks to place a two-year moratorium on an envisioned casino for the city of Cedar Rapids.
According to a report from local television broadcaster KCRG-TV citing official information from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa State Senator Roby Smith was legally gifted the cash by Elite Casino Resorts LLC, which operates the midwestern state’s 50,000 sq ft Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort as well as the similarly-sized Riverside Casino and Golf Resort. The Republican lawmaker purportedly represents the district hosting this company’s Rhythm City Casino Resort near Davenport and is soon set to run against Democratic incumbent Michael Fitzgerald for the office of Iowa State Treasurer.
Dan Kehl serves as the Chief Executive Officer for Elite Casino Resorts LLC, which is moreover soon hoping to debut its Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort facility in Illinois alongside Nebraska’s Grand Island Casino Resort venue, and has reportedly long criticized the plan to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids. The boss has purportedly continually contended that such a venue would make existing gambling-friendly enterprises in the nearby communities of Waterloo, Meskwaki and Riverside less profitable.
KCRG-TV reported that Elite Casino Resorts LLC is now the seventh-largest donor to 45-year-old Smith while the legislator is furthermore known to have received political contributions worth more than $20,000 from a range of other casino industry advocacy groups. The broadcaster noted that only senior Iowa State Senator Jack Whitver and Iowa House of Representative members Bobby Kaufman and Pat Grassley have received larger donations from the operator.
A city of some 138,000 people, Cedar Rapids had reportedly been hopeful of finally being given the right to host the state’s 24th casino in partnership with Cedar Rapids Development Group, which is a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, after failing with similar attempts in 2014 and 2017. However, the community’s mayor, Tiffany O’Donnell (pictured), purportedly told the broadcaster that she was only told about the passage of the two-year moratorium attempt via a text message from Iowa State Senator Liz Mathis.
The legislation establishing the Cedar Rapids delay, which would additionally legalize cashless casino gaming and allow sportsbettors to wager on individual player awards, has reportedly yet to be signed into law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds but was passed last week via overwhelming margins by both the Iowa House of Representative and the Iowa State Senate. Supporters of the moratorium purportedly argued that the state’s gaming market is already at saturation point and the appearance of another casino could severely negatively impact future donations to local non-profit organizations.
Although O’Donnell reportedly divulged that she is aware of gaming industry contributions to many political candidates in Iowa, the Democratic leader also expressed frustration at the legislative move to pause the Cedar Rapids casino. The 53-year-old former news anchor also questioned whether such donations could have played a part in Smith’s introduction of the planned breather.
O’Donnell reportedly told KCRG-TV…
“It’s hard to not feel played as a city, it really is. We’ve been playing by the rules just like we’ve done in the past but at the eleventh hour there seemingly may have been a front room, back room or I don’t know where deal. This came out of nowhere.”