October 17, 2013


Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission members have set a Jan, 6 deadline for submission of an exhaustive application for a gaming license in Greene County ­- with details expected on the integrity and operation of the planned casino to types of games to projected jobs and economic-development impact.

"It asks for a lot of information," said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the commission. "The goal is to give commission members a sense of what a project will look like."

In August, by a margin of 3-to-1, Greene County voters approved a gaming referendum. A proposal from West Des Moines-based Wild Rose Entertainment and its associated Greene County non-profit entity now must earn majority support from the five-member state gaming commission.

Ohorilko said the application will be followed by a law-enforcement review of the plan.

Site visits to Greene County and a formal presentation from the developer and non-profit are part of the process, as well, Ohorilko said. He stressed that a public hearing would be held, likely in Greene County, to allow for input before a commission vote.

Commissioners are expecting two reports on gaming in Iowa by March. Those reports, from separate vendors, will provide a comprehensive view of the existing industry and look closely at Greene, Linn and Webster counties, which have approved gaming, but do not have casinos. Iowa currently has 18 state-regulated casinos.

The commission will meet March 6 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona.

At its Oct. 13 meeting in Dubuque, the commission passed a motion to set April 17 (during a regular session planned in Council Bluffs) as a decision date for a proposed casino in Cedar Rapids.

Ohorilko said formal commission action on a Greene County casino likely will come after that.

Guy Richardson, a Greene County supervisor and leading advocate of the Jefferson casino, has attended recent Racing and Gaming Commission meetings.

"We continue to be very optimistic," Richardson said. "I think we're sitting in a good position."

Greene County Development Corporation executive director Ken Paxton said the potential of a casino being developed in Jefferson has brought more attention from site selectors who help guide businesses seeking initial start-up locations or communities in which to expand.

"We've changed our level significantly in the eyes of some important people," Paxton said. "It's even bigger than I thought it was."