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March 5th, 2010

Money Grab: Culver Looks to Expand Gambling to Ease Budget Woes

slot machinesYesterday, Governor Chet Culver lobbied the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to approve four new gaming licenses. There are four Iowa counties that have passed gambling referendums, but to move forward, gaming licenses need to be issued to developers. If Culver’s wish to expand gambling is successful, new casinos would be built in Lyon, Webster, Tama, and Wapello counties.

Culver is pushing to expanding gambling in the state to create jobs and hopes that these new casinos will spur economic development. The Governor claims that the move will create hundreds of jobs and $250 million in economic activity.

The move to grant additional gaming licenses is in addition to measurers that the state legislature is currently considering that would expand gambling. One such proposed measure would allow casinos to use their convention facilities to host poker tournaments. Another piece of legislation would end the requirement to have casino licenses ratified by voters every ten years. Instead, a reverse referendum could be used if a community wanted to ban gambling and enough signatures were collected to get the issue on the ballot.

States have historically looked towards gambling in times of financial difficulty. During the farm crisis of the 1980’s, the Iowa legislature authorized wagering on horse and dog racing. In 1989, the legislature once again expanded gambling, this time allowing gambling on excursion boats in counties that passed referendums. Over time, the state has incrementally expanded gambling to the point we see today – no limit, land based gaming.

The Iowa Family Policy Center sent out a press release yesterday entitled, “Culver’s Green Job Proposal – Recycle Bad Ideas.” In the press release, Chuck Hurley, IFPC’s president said, “This is not the first time an Iowa Governor has turned to gambling revenue to make up for having grown government too fast. In 1989, Governor Terry Branstad and the legislature legalized gambling in Iowa.”

According to Hurley, “If gambling were the answer, the 17 casinos we already have, plus the lottery, should have enabled us to avoid budget shortfalls and keep from taking a hit during this recession.Instead, we know that Iowa lawmakers have become addicted to gambling ‘revenue’ and have set us on a path to higher taxes and expanded gambling. The only people who benefit from an expansion of gambling are the politicians and the gambling interests, but certainly not the people of Iowa.”

Unlike the farm crisis of the 1980’s, the budget mess that the state finds itself in now was created by Governor Culver and the Democratic legislature who went on a reckless spending spree after gaining power following the 2006 elections. For the most part, state spending grew at the rate of inflation and matched state revenues under during Branstad’s terms as governor.

When Governor Culver took office and Democrat majorities in the House and Senate were seated, spending went out of control. Fiscal year 2008 and 2009 appropriations were the highest in the state’s history. While state revenues were strong, the increased level of spending was no big deal, but when the economy collapsed in the fall of 2008, all of the excess spending caught up with them.

To balance last year’s budget, Culver and the Democrats relied on hundreds of millions of dollars of one-time money from the federal government. Now that those dollars are about to run out, the Governor is now pressuring the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to expand gambling in the state in hopes to generate more revenue. Iowa already has enough casinos in the state. There is essentially a casino within an hour’s drive from anywhere in Iowa. There are countless examples of the negative impact gambling has on the communities where casinos are located.

Governor Culver and the legislature would be better off if they would admit that they have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Instead of issuing new gaming licenses, finding ways to help casinos make more money, and expanding the lottery, Culver and the Democrats should get serious about finding ways to make state government leaner and more efficient. If they are unwilling to do so, then Iowans need to elect a new management team who will address the state’s real problem.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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