Jack Hatch
Jack Hatch
May 14, 2014

Democratic candidate for governor Jack Hatch says state regulators should provide an "open market" and a "chance" for Iowa communities to develop casinos - and not analyze the effects on existing gaming complexes when making calls on licensing.

In an interview with the Jefferson Bee & Herald, Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, raised the gaming issue himself in opening general comments with no prompting from the newspaper.

"My belief on all casinos is that it should be market-driven," Hatch said. "I mean, who are we to pick winners and losers?"

Hatch said there is no reason the proposed $40-million Greene County casino-and-entertainment complex shouldn't be approved.

"Everything the Greene County casino did was right, and they shouldn't be making decisions on how it's going to affect another casino on the edges," Hatch said. "The consumers will decide where they want to play."

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has scheduled a public hearing in Jefferson for May 29. A commission vote on a gaming license for a planned Wild Rose Entertainment complex is expected June 12 during a regular meeting in Burlington.

Hatch said state law doesn't direct the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to worry about cannibalization of any existing casinos by a potential new entrant to the market.

"That (cannibalization) is a word that was established and made up," Hatch said. "It doesn't talk about worrying about other people's market share because you don't know what it is. It's really about whether it is fair and honest and that people have the right to vote on it, which they've done."

Last August, Greene County voters, by a margin of 75 percent to 25 percent, approved a gaming referendum.

Hatch said he's not concerned if existing casinos lose money as a result of the introduction of a new gaming facility.

"They're still making a boat load of money," Hatch said. "Why should they be protected?"

Greene County is an area that needs more economic development, Hatch said.

"There's a spinoff of casinos that creates additional building, additional services, and it provides a higher income level for that area, wage area," Hatch said. "Why wouldn't you do it?"

Gov. Terry Branstad, a five-term Republican incumbent seeking re-election, told the Bee & Herald last week that he would not comment on the Greene County casino proposal. He said the matter is in the hands of the gaming commission.