A new study, which was commissioned by Penn National Gaming, says if either one of its two competitors are awarded Woodbury County's new casino license, local schools could miss out on millions of tax dollars over the next 20 years.
Penn National has two plans for Hollywood Casinos. One is in Sioux City, and the other near Salix. Penn spokesperson Karen Bailey says tax increment financing—or TIF—requests for Sioux City Entertainment's Hard Rock Casino-Hotel, and Ho-Chunk Inc's "Warrior Casino" would cost Sioux City's public schools $14 million and $20 million, respectively.
In a statement, Bailey said, "It's stunning to see what the cost is to Sioux City schools as a result of the city's $20 million plus giveaway to the other two applicants."
Both SCE and Ho-Chunk are calling out the study.
"This is a laser-like focus, commissioned by Penn, to make them look good and try to make someone else look bad," said Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc.
Bill Warner, with Sioux City Entertainment, says their research agrees, "The net benefit after TIF payments to Sioux City, its schools and its people is better than each of Penn's proposals."
Morgan says any casino will actually generate substantial money for the city, not take it away.
"The Warrior is the entity that's actually going to give the largest percentage of revenues to the city itself. And so, to pick out one thing out of 50, and focus on that and talk about how great you are, is a mistake," said Morgan.
James Van Bruggen, who heads Sioux City's Taxpayers Research Council, a research and advocacy group, says the study is flawed because it doesn't consider that all three casinos would be in an existing TIF district, in the downtown area. So, impact would be the same, regardless.
"In every scenario, whether it's us or the other two competitors, the schools are going to receive more money," said Morgan.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will make the final decision when it votes April 18.
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