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Most Iowa gambling revenues go to higher education

Job retraining fund also gets substantial portion, report shows

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Higher education was among the biggest winners as Iowa’s casinos and racetracks paid the state $313.9 million in gambling revenue in fiscal 2015, a report Tuesday from the Legislative Services Agency showed.

The education winnings were indirect, however. They came from the 46 percent, or $144.3 million, of the gambling revenues that are funneled into the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, which includes money for tuition replacement and building projects at Iowa’s three public universities.

Among the major line items in the fund are $30.2 million to pay the debt service on academic revenue bonds to supplant tuition income at the universities; $30.5 million for biosciences at Iowa State University; $42 million for the University of Iowa pharmacy building; and $30.9 million for Schindler Center renovations at the University of Northern Iowa.

The next largest slice of the gamblign revenue pie — $66 million, or 21 percent — went to the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund, programs geared toward training Iowans to develop technical skills, create jobs and return Iowans to the workforce.

Overall, gambling revenues and admissions to Iowa’s 18 state-licensed gambling establishments ticked up slightly in fiscal 2015, the agency said.

The $313.9 million collected is an increase of $5.3 million, or 1.7 percent, compared with the previous year. However, it was down 1.2 percent, or $3.9 million, from $317.8 million in fiscal 2013.

The biggest share of the fiscal 2015 gambling revenues comes from the state wagering taxes imposed on table games and slot machines, which was up 1.9 percent from fiscal 2014. That corresponds to a 3.5 percent increase in admissions of 729,000 as well as a 1.9 percent increase — $27.3 million — in total adjusted gross revenues, the agency said.

The state also receives payments from casinos that have been issued licenses by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to operate gambling establishments.

Iowa law requires a newly licensed operator to pay a one-time license fee that can be paid in equal installments over five years. The amount varies based on the size of the county where the casino is located.

In fiscal 2015, two licensed operators paid a total of $5 million to the state.

They were Sioux City Entertainment LLC (Hard Rock Hotel and Casino) in Woodbury County and Wild Rose Jefferson LLC (Wild Rose Casino and Resort) in Greene County. Sioux City Entertainment made a $4 million payment, the third installment of a $20 million fee. Wild Rose Jefferson paid $1 million, the second installment of a $5 million fee.

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