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What Did You Learn at Your Casino Town Hall Meeting???


The town hall meeting, sponsored by the committee that is funded from the planned casino, hopefully was an opportunity for questions to be answered by the planned casino and its supporters.  The CARE Organization hopes that you heard the propaganda and the promises of the casino and carefully dissected their promises.  Dan Kehl is the majority owner.  Joe Massa is the general manager.  Wes Ehrecke is the spokesman of the 10 riverboat casinos.  Marj Schnoebelen is the casino committee chair.


We hope that you learned that:


Dan Kehl gave you a background of what his parents achieved in their lifetime managing riverboats.  What he probably failed to mention is that the corporation isn’t so much an Iowa company anymore.  In fact, Mr. Kehl moved to North Carolina, a state that still outlaws casino gambling.  His parents live in Las Vegas.  In fact, of the 6 companies Kehl currently operates (including Kehl General Contracting), not a single officer listed currently lives in Iowa.  This can be verified on the Iowa Secretary of State incorporation filings that the Kehl companies are required to file.  We have noticed that in all of the meetings, Mr. Kehl has never claimed that he has personally achieved great things or goodness for Iowa and his trying to ride the coattails of his parents.


The Washington County Citizens for Good Jobs receives funding directly from the casino, and it is a lot of funding.  Their campaign has focused on good jobs and plentiful jobs.  Today you most likely learned that the casino owners are unwilling to put their signature on their campaign promises.  We have proven their promise of high-paying jobs WRONG many times.  If you listened carefully you probably heard Mr. Massa quote an hourly salary that included tips and benefits.  As we’ve asked many times over, Mr. Massa, “What is the hourly rate, the take-home pay???”  Only a couple of times did Mr. Massa quietly admit to us that the actual starting rate for most jobs will indeed be $6.45 per hour, or $13,416 per year.  $27,000?  Just a sad campaign promise.  600 Jobs?  We asked him to guarantee that as well.  As you probably heard the casino is just unwilling to guarantee all of these promises.  Benefits for all” as they promised in their flyers?  Last week we learned that a good portion of jobs will not have benefits.  Good benefits?  We now know that the employees will have to pay for some of these as well.


“Total Compensation Package?”  We requested from Mr. Massa in July just exactly what do the employees earn at Catfish Bend?  We asked him for more information so the voters could decide just how good those jobs are.  As of 8/10/04,  we have received NO RESPONSE from Mr. Massa. 


From the handouts provided on your chair at the town meeting, look at the annual survey results (Chart 1) from Iowa casino workers.  57% make less than their previous jobs.  78% had a decrease in savings.  76% had worse healthcare at the casino.  60% of employees were financially worse off.  91% still had the same or more debt before working at the casino.  97% of those on welfare or food stamps were unable to discontinue those programs!   This is hardly what we would consider “fields of opportunities!”  We could hardly believe that the casino would be proud of these facts.


On the back page, the Quality of Life Survey indicated that the casino jobs resulted in:  71% of the employees worried more about making ends meet.  68% of the workers were unable to pay bills more regularly.  87% had been unable to take their family on a vacation.  87% were unable to reduce their credit card debt.  76% were unable to increase their self-esteem.  74% couldn’t save any more for retirement.  84% couldn’t take better care of their family.  And these are a result of good jobs?  These numbers show just how severely poor the jobs are and just how terrible the workers feel.  The Retention Survey shows that only 50% of the employees stay 3 years at a casino.  The employees of casinos are a new class of unhappily employed working poor.  The Iowa Gaming Association should be ashamed of these statistics, but has little better material to show job quality.  Would Washington County be happy to have 300 jobs turning over every three years?  Do these jobs sound like good jobs now?  As their flyer states, only half of the employees even responded to the questionnaire.  How much worse does the other half feel about their jobs?  Once again we are surprised that the IGA would publicly admit how miserable these jobs are.


You were able to hear how the Washington County Assessor is unsure of what the casino will do for property taxes in the county.  Any promises of property tax relief by the casino are so far unfounded and certainly not planned by our Assessor.  Our Assessor has learned, however that casinos in other counties have sued and settled out of court in an attempt to reduce their property taxes by one third.


You learned that a Public Health Survey in Clinton County (Mr. Kehl’s casino) showed devastating effects to the health of the community:

Senior citizens wearing diapers so they didn’t have to leave the slot machines.

Diabetics missing their medications due to the slots.

More money needed for batterers education and domestic violence treatment.

Poor crime tracking systems of both the Clinton County Sheriff and the City Police.

Lack of homeless shelters.

Substance abuse, binge drinking, mental illness, lack of prevention services, increased suicide, and the list goes on and on from Clinton County.


You all received the mailing about how the Clinton County Sheriff hasn’t noticed an increase in crime in that county due to the casino.  The health providers there report that this is because there is no uniform tracking system in that county for arrests and crime reports.  To ignore the problems doesn’t minimize them, unfortunately. 


You learned that Dr. Donald Black, a University of Iowa gambling researcher, had these comments for Wes Ehrecke, the Iowa Gaming Association spokesman:  “His job is to sell gambling, and he does it well.”  Dr. Black goes on to say that a riverboat in Riverboat would help his gambling addict research and yet he still opposes the expansion of gambling.  “It does little for the economy, other than redistribute money.  Certainly, nothing is created, as in a factory, which is how wealth is produced.”  He goes on to say that he objects “when politicians come to view it as a cash cow that will magically solve their problems.”  He also noted that as a renowned researcher of gambling addicts, that most addicts will never seek treatment.  “Wes knows this, but conveniently uses the state’s own statistics to support is view.”


You learned that Mr. Kehl wants to open a lot of casinos in our state but has had little luck in winning over the other counties.  By getting the city and county leaders to sign that “Memorandum of Understanding,” he hopes to eliminate the competition.  As a casino owner, he know that a sure bet is that contract that was signed.  But what Mr. Kehl doesn’t know is that our city leaders aren’t stuck with his small promised returns.  If the referendum passes and our leaders “play their cards right” now, we will still lose, but we’ll lose a bit less.


Get registered, Vote on Aug. 31, and Let this Casino Know that We Don’t Want Them Here!

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