TAMA NEWS-HERALD - "That's the '$64,000 question,'" John Pavone responded last week in a telephone interview. He was asked what he expects from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission at their July meeting. Commission Chair Greg Seyfer promised Tama and four other Iowa communities would get their answer when the commission meets next on July 16.
Pavone, president of Signature Management Group, said last Friday, "We continue to be involved with Tama -100 percent for the community. We want to see a hotel-casino-resort property there and want the opportunity to compete for a license."
Based in Sioux City, Pavone's company and the City of Tama entered into an agreement in 2006 to build a casino resort here. Both Pavone and Tama Mayor Chris Bearden, who also heads Tama County Community Betterment, said that agreement remains in place.
Pavone, who has been a leader in Iowa casino development since 1982, said he hopes the Racing and Gaming Commission "gives Bearden and Tama the opportunity to tell the story."
He said he had studied both gaming reports presented to the commission in May and said, "I think Tama fared very well in these feasibility studies."
He said he thought the "cannibalization" (taking of ) business from existing casinos by a new one in Tama was shown to "only be minimal" in the studies.
Pavone repeated the case he made at the May 21 Gaming Commission meeting - "This commission has the opportunity to create 2,400 brand new jobs within 24 months. I don't know how (you) can avoid that opportunity."
He called for the commission to issue conditional licenses to all five potential counties now eligible. Pavone said the required vote in 2010, in which voters in individual counties must again approve casino gaming, would be the test for the new licensees.
In Iowa, casino gambling licenses must be held by nonprofit organizations and a share of revenues is distributed public improvement projects under their direction. Iowa currently has 17 of these casinos in operation.
Iowa law requires approval of casino gambling by voters in a county before an application for a license can be made. When casino gambling was extended in Iowa in the early 1990s, the Iowa Legislature added a provision requiring all licensed counties to vote again in the year 2010.
Bearden and Pavone have maintained the addition of a casino in Tama would work in favor of the nearby Meskwaki BingoCasinoHotel, Iowa's largest ambling complex.
It is Native American-owned, and operates under a separate compact with the state according to federal guidelines. Two other Native American-owned casinos operate in western Iowa.