Gaming has provided Council Bluffs a good hand in economic growth and jobs, city officials and industry supporters said Monday.
It’s important that those coming through Iowa over the next few months seeking the presidency know that, they added.
“At the federal level, it’s critical they understand,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “To help people understand. That is what is incumbent on all of us to do.”
The purpose of Monday’s “rah-rah” meeting about gaming, held at Ameristar Casino, was to make presidential candidates fully understand gaming and, therefore, provide voters with better-informed views on where they stand on this issue.
After all, it was mentioned at the meeting that “if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” And that story may not be accurate, according to those in attendance.
“It’s all about getting the truth out there,” said Ron Tekippe, president of HGM Associates Inc.
The story for Council Bluffs is one of community betterment through the grants and initiatives supported by the Iowa West Foundation, which receives a portion of gaming venue. Bob Mundt, the director of the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce, cited the public library and the city recreation complex as two examples of Iowa West’s impact.
In the future, the West Broadway corridor study and the development of Playland Park are both being backed by Iowa West, and thus by dollars connected to gaming, Tekippe said. Freeman said that nationally gaming creates $250 billion in economic activity and 1.7 million jobs, including 17,000 in Iowa and $2.5 billion in economic activity.
U.S. Rep. David Young, a Republican who represents the 3rd Congressional district including Council Bluffs, was among those who attended the gathering to support the cause.
“We have a chance to elect the next president and a chance to put the candidates on the record,” Young said.
A recent poll provided at the meeting found that a majority of Iowans planning to participate in next year’s presidential caucus are more likely to support those who recognize the benefits of gaming.
“Presidential candidates who want to win in Iowa must support casino gaming – an industry embraced by Iowans across the political spectrum,” Freeman said.
Concern about negative attitudes was raised early in President Barack Obama’s first term when he expressed displeasure of government conventions held in Las Vegas, he said.
“We see this as a misguided belief of what casinos are,” Freeman said.
Young said the politics of gambling is an example of the struggle between the federal government and state officials.
“This has thrived because of states’ rights,” Young said. “We want to keep these decisions at the state level.