Monday, March 24, 2008

Casinos Holding Off On Expansion

It was a tense week at the Isle of Capri Casino after several positions were cut. When asked about the job cuts the General Manager – Barron Fuller – stated that the cuts were due to a reorganization effort that will help them against the high gas prices, the winter weather, and the ever growing competition.

The fuel prices have been one of the biggest problems for the Marquette casino to deal with. The fact that many of the gamblers that play at that casino have to drive almost 75 miles is making it difficult for them to come out as often as they would like. "It's kind of on everyone's radar screen," said Fuller.

Many people believe that another big problem that they are facing is the addition of the brand new $175 million casino that was put up in Waterloo. Whether or not the new casino is really taking away the business of the Marquette casino and the surrounding casinos is not something that has been proven – but there still is a chance it could be a real problem

Bruce Wentworth – the General Manager of the Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino – stated that the bad winter weather may have played a much bigger role than any competition. "The most recent pressure has been weather-driven rather than from competition," he stated. He also went on to say that after the winter storms had passed the attendance went back up almost 8% during the month of February. "That could be some pent-up demand from the previous two months."

Wentworth believes that they will have a better chance of finding out the root of the problem when the summer begins and the tourists start to pour in. "The Isle Casino and Hotel at Waterloo has been very successful; how we are impacting other facilities is really a question for those other facilities," stated Kelly Heth – the public relations and advertising manager over the operation.

It seems that whatever the problem is it is weighing down heavily on the Marquette operation. "At certain times, competition is healthy," stated Fuller. "Right now, I don't think the demand has caught up to supply."

That is why the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission chose this month to not accept new license applications from the newer casinos till they have studied the impact they have on existing casinos and the community.

Representatives from Ottumwa, Tama, Newton, and Franklin County don’t agree with this step and have asked the board to give out licenses hoping that it will help to support more jobs and economic opportunities for people. Already Franklin County, Tama, and Ottumwa have been given approval from the local voters allowing them a casino.