Adding a casino would subtract funds from community
It seems as if it’s been several weeks since more than a day has gone by without some news of how the casino industry is going to be changing in Central Iowa. After sorting through all the facts and claims to get to the bottom line, however, one conclusion becomes clear: Building a new casino in the Des Moines area that directly competes with Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino would result in millions of dollars flowing to a casino management company that would otherwise go to local charities and community projects.
Prairie Meadows consistently contributes substantially greater amounts of money to the community than casinos managed by hired management companies. Unlike most other casinos in Iowa, Prairie Meadows isn’t burdened with an intermediate layer of management — with primary allegiance to a home office in Mississippi or Nevada — siphoning off millions of dollars in management and franchise fees. Prairie Meadows is able to accomplish this because it operates as a not-for-profit entity and because its operations are managed under the direct oversight of a local board made up of members who represent various constituencies in the community.
Prairie Meadows’ management team is focused on generating revenue that goes right back into our community. By implementing their plans for an enhanced entertainment complex that will integrate well with the other tourism projects being constructed in our community, Prairie Meadows will not only continue to pump over 20 percent of its revenue back into the community, but as revenues increase with growth, that percentage will likely increase as well. And the current rate of giving is three times greater than that of any Iowa casino using a management company. Additionally, Prairie Meadows’ management is the most efficient among Iowa’s gaming organizations at controlling operating expenses. Efficient management means more dollars available to improve our neighborhoods and the quality of life for all who live and work here.
If you have any doubts about Prairie Meadows’ impact, just ask any of the more than 500 organizations that have benefited from its disbursement of funds since 1996. One-quarter of a billion dollars have been given to community betterment projects and charitable organizations here in Central Iowa.
Various independent studies indicate unmet demand for gaming in Central Iowa if expansion is well-managed over time. However, adding another casino in Des Moines is an inefficient way to serve any unmet need and certainly isn’t the best approach to providing for the needs of our community.
If we want to address any additional gaming potential in Central Iowa, expanding Prairie Meadows is the best option available. It is the one facility with the unique structure that allows for consistent, efficient and cost-effective investment in our community. Expansion of the existing facility in Altoona will dramatically increase the amount of money funneled to local charities and community betterment projects. Plans that include something other than that will be taking money away from our local community.
The Prairie Meadows formula has proven to be an enormous windfall for the Polk County voters, who supported this concept in 1994 and again in 2002. Since that time, the casino has been committed to providing quality entertainment while promoting economic development, tourism, agriculture and jobs in Central Iowa. It should be given the first chance at additional gaming in Des Moines.
Connie Boesen is a community activist and served as chairperson of the Prairie Meadows Yes committee in 2002.