Report: Jefferson would draw from existing casinos
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Two outside consultants hired by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission have issued reports showing that a proposed Jefferson casino-and-entertainment complex would pull patrons from the existing 18 state-regulated casinos, and even a Native American casino in central Iowa.
The reports will be part of a broader consideration about whether a Greene County nonprofit associated with West Des Moines-based Wild Rose Entertainment should be granted a gambling license.
Wild Rose and its Greene County advocates will present to the racing commission March 6 in a regular meeting at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino. The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. An agenda will be available this Friday.
As for the consultants’ reports, both showed an impact from the proposed Jefferson casino on other gaming facilities.
“We find that the Iowa casino supply is approaching maximum penetration within the existing market,” summarized Marquette Advisors, an international gaming consultant with an office in Minneapolis.
Marquette estimates the proposed Wild Rose Casino-Jefferson would generate about $28 million in annual gaming revenue with an estimated 400,000 annual visitors (about $70 per visitor).
“We expect that a new Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson would have a significant cannibalization impact,” Marquette reported. “That impact would be spread across several casinos throughout the state.”
Of the projected $28 million in gaming revenue at the Greene County casino, Marquette estimates that about $6 million would be “new” revenue resulting from an increase in gaming activity.
The rest of it would flow from other casinos in Iowa: $6 million from Prairie Meadows in Altoona; $4.5 million from Meskwaki, the Native American casino in Tama; $3.2 million from Wild Rose in Emmetsburg; and $8.3 million from other casinos.
Las Vegas-based Union Gaming Analytics estimates gross gaming revenues of between $23 million and $45 million for the proposed Jefferson casino.
Like the other study, Union forecasts much of the Jefferson casino’s annual revenue would come from other gambling facilities in the state: between $10 million to $15 million from Prairie Meadows; between $3 million to $5 million from Emmetsburg; and from $3 million to $4 million from Meskwaki.
Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. President Norm Fandel said advocates of Wild Rose-Jefferson anticipated there would be some affect on other casinos.
That considered, he said the Jefferson project is more than just a gaming complex.
“I hope as the gaming commission reviews this they consider we’re trying to build more than a gaming complex,” Fandel said, adding that the $40 million Jefferson plan includes a hotel and convention center as well.
What’s more, Fandel said, there is still the matter of the map. Jefferson is in the middle of a vast swath of west-central Iowa that isn’t served by a casino.
“Jefferson is perfect in the geography of Iowa to put another casino,” Fandel said.
Tom Timmons, president and chief operating officer for Wild Rose, said it is important to point out that one of the casinos most affected by a Jefferson project would be Wild Rose’s own facility in Emmetsburg. Since Prairie Meadows continues to grow, the Emmetsburg casino is the one to closely examine, Timmons said.
“We don’t impact anybody other than ourselves the most,” he said.
What’s more, Timmons said, the study doesn’t fully take into account the likelihood for increased visits to casinos as a result of improved access.
He’s confident that in the big picture, in which the Jefferson project is considered as part of a comprehensives economic-development push, the commission will see the value in the Wild Rose plan to build an entertainment complex on the northwest side of the U.S. Highway 30 and Highway 4 intersection in Jefferson.
“We’re full steam ahead,” Timmons said.