Gambling is enjoying a new era of expansion in Iowa, but the board at the Des Moines International Airport rejected a proposal that would have brought further gaming options.
The airport board rejected plans to develop a new $225 million casino and hotel on its grounds, according to a report in The Des Moines Register
According to the Register the plan is the pet project and brainchild of Reggie Sinha, a developer and entrepreneur in the Des Moines area. Sinha has owned and operated businesses for the past 25 years and teaches a business administration class at Des Moines Area Community College.
Sinha told the Register he believed a hotel alone would be “woefully inadequate” and that a casino project would make the project much more potentially lucrative and thus more viable.
The proposed location would challenge Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack and Hotel, which currently is the only facility offering casino games, sports betting and other gaming services to the Des Moines area.
That creates an obstacle because of a 16-year-old agreement between the casino, Des Moines and Polk County. The pact essentially grants Prairie Meadows exclusivity to offer gambling services to the area in exchange for a share of all gaming revenue to be pumped back into the local infrastructure.
City Manager Scott Sanders believes the airport board made the right move in honoring the agreement, though Sinha said the members would have been on “sound ground” to vote in favor of the proposed project.
Mark Feldmann, one board member, said he couldn’t even envision “a path to a licensed casino facility on our grounds. I don't see why we'd dedicate the effort ... in face of what is really just a very remote possibility.”
Airport Executive Director Kevin Foley was even more direct when asked about the casino proposal by Des Moines NBC affiliate WHO-TV last month. He did, however, describe the true financial incentive for the airport to accept the proposition, though that wound up not happening.
“The airport is not in the gambling business and have no intentions ourselves of ever getting into the gambling business," Foley said. "However what this plan proposed was basically a land rent where they could put the hotel and casino that would close the $200 million funding gap that we have to build the terminal and that's the real interest from the airport.”
With no resolution in sight, it's going to be up to Sinha to keep pushing the proposal to the airport and the Iowa Gaming and Racing Commission. Until then Prairie Meadows remains the sole property for gambling fans in Des Moines.