Iowa House OKs Table Games for Racetracks

Prairie Meadows and two Greyhound tracks will be permitted to offer table games under Iowa legislation that bans new gaming licenses in counties where they aren't currently in place. The three tracks already operate slot machines

The Iowa House of Representatives passed the bill on a 73-26 vote Feb. 26, the Des Moines Register reported. The measure now goes to the Senate, which isn't expected to consider it until mid-March.

Prairie Meadows would get table games but would have to forgive $53.7 million in back taxes owed by the state. The track would pay a 24% tax rate--retroactive to a 2002 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that it's unconstitutional to tax tracks nearly twice as much as riverboats. Right now, racetracks and riverboats are paying 20%.

"As legislation goes, it is never perfect science," Gary Lucas, chairman of the Racing Association of Central Iowa, told the Register. (RACI operates Prairie Meadows.) "You always have some giving up and some compromise. We felt we've done that in spades today."

The measure would allow table games at Prairie Meadows and dog tracks in Council Bluffs and Dubuque. It also calls for a new casino tax that wouldn't cause the state to lose money, removes cash and credit card machines from casino floors, and forgives $112.6 million in back taxes the state owes the tracks.

An amendment included in the bill would assure total purses of $16.7 million, the 2003 amount, at Prairie Meadows, but shorten the guarantee to seven years. Purses could, however, increase to $21 million a year.

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