Iowa casinos are giving back, even to counties where legal gambling facilities don’t reside.
The Community Foundation of Greater Plymouth County officially announced its 2022 funding allocations for organizations in late November. That money came from the Iowa County Endowment Fund Program, which spreads funding from Iowa gambling tax receipts.
The foundation awarded $151,133.65 this year. More than two dozen organizations split the funds among their various requests.
Those organizations include area school districts, a YMCA, the LeMars Police Department, a food pantry and a museum.
How the foundation allocates Iowa gambling funds
Iowa law states that for an organization to receive funding from gambling tax dollars, it must benefit its community with educational, civic and public purposes.
In Plymouth County, a grant board meets yearly to review the different organizational requests. CFGPC executive board member Kelly Nashleanas told the LeMars Daily Sentinal:
“They have three-four weeks to review the applications and go through all the grants. If they have any questions, they reach out to the organizations and ask those questions, and then we met and reviewed the information organized with spreadsheets.”
From there, the grand board ranks the organizations on a scale. “(They’re) ranked highest to lowest, depending on what they feel is important to fund,” Nashleanas said.
She explained that only projects in Plymouth County are up for funding. There was some hesitancy with one organization in particular, though. The board questioned the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ request for a freezer and food.
Nashleanas explained that there was some initial confusion around the Ronald McDonald House. The debate was based on its location, but the group qualified at the end of the day.
Iowa casino funds fund state foundations
Funding for Greater Plymouth County Community Foundation comes from Iowa’s legal gambling revenue.
Plymouth County does not have a casino. Instead, it’s one of the many counties to earn a certain percentage of the state’s gross gambling tax receipts. Each non-gambling county in Iowa receives half of 1% of those receipts.
Those funds go toward countywide community foundations to allocate to local organizations. Nashleanas said:
“Since we don’t have a casino in our county area, we are allocated that percentage of casino dollars so we can distribute that. And how fun is that, to be able to donate to organizations which really need it to help our veterans, our seniors and our children.”
Iowa gambling industry benefits counties across state
The Iowa Gaming Association’s website says that the casino industry generates a yearly $1 billion economic impact. In Fiscal Year 2022, Iowa’s 19 casinos combined for $1.7 billion in adjusted gross revenue.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission‘s latest report shows that in FY23, the state’s casinos grabbed just shy of $600 million in adjusted gross revenue.
Created in 2004, the County Endowment Fund Program generated more than 32,000 grants. Those grants invested $125 million in nonprofits across the state.
Last year was a record year in terms of the total distribution; the program distributed $12.5 million in funding, which amounted to $145,443 per community foundation.
The Iowa Gaming Association’s 2020-21 annual report said:
“These grantmaking efforts and the Endow Iowa tax credit are a winning combination of supporting community needs for Iowans now and in the future. As a result of these programs, community-based philanthropy has helped shape communities and counties across Iowa into vibrant places to live, work, raise families and retire.
“Iowans are benefitting today and will for generations to come.”