Bigger Prizes Proposed for Games of Skill; Casinos Object

Feb 6, 2018

Games of skill played in retail establishments for non-cash prizes would be expanded under proposed legislation at the statehouse, but some Iowa casinos are lining up to oppose the bill. 

Establishments such as  Chuck E. Cheese and Fun City reward winners of skill-based games with non-cash prizes or coupons valued up to $100.

The bill would raise the limit to $950 to accommodate a restaurant and arcade chain known as Dave and Buster’s that wants to expand into Iowa.

States around the country have seen this as a no-brainer. -Dave and Buster's lobbyist David Adelman

Lobbyist David Adelman says Iowa should be encouraging the new business to move in.

“The construction investment, the property taxes, the sales tax to the state,” Adelman said.   “States around the country have seen this as a no-brainer.”  

In its stores in other states, Dave and Buster’s offers prizes such as PlayStations and i-Pads.

Casinos are arguing for a lower amount than the $950 proposed in the bill.  

“We’d like to keep it at a reasonable amount,” said Susan Cameron Daemon, lobbyist for Ameristar Casino.   “I think $600 is an amount our client would be comfortable with.”

But backers of the bill say the retail establishments and casinos serve different clientele.

“They are two entirely different business operations,” said Sen. Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs).  

We'd like to keep it at a reasonable amount. Ameristar Casino Lobbyist Susan Cameron Daemon

Dawson has patronized the Dave and Buster’s across the river in Omaha.   He says it has had no effect on casinos in Council Bluffs.

“They’re both thriving establishments,” Dawson said.

The skill-based games offered by Dave and Buster’s, Chuck-E-Cheese, and others are referred to in Iowa law as amusement concessions.   They are distinct from the amusement devices found in bars which are subject to lower limits on the value of prizes.

Critics of the bill say in time the higher prize limits could also end up in the bars.

“There’s nothing in the code that precludes an amusement concession device being placed there and then being eligible for that $950 limit,” said Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke.