Could it happen? Hotel and casino proposed for Des Moines International Airport

Local News

DES MOINES — Highview Development Group wants to build a $225,000,000 casino and hotel at the Des Moines International Airport.

The complex would include a 350 room hotel connected to the airport by a skywalk.

There also would be a fountain, rock garden, restaurant and wedding and banquet facilities.

Right now, Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona is the only casino in the largest county in the state of Iowa. But a new proposal could put another one here in Polk County, less than 20 miles away.

However, the Racing and Gaming Commission told Local 5 it would be a long process before that proposal could become a reality.

“I think it’s very unique in the history of Iowa proposals,” Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s Jeff Lamberti said.

Lamberti said studies have shown that most of Iowa is saturated with casinos, with one notable exception.

“The only place that those studies show potential for an under-served market is Des Moines,” Lamberti said.

But he said getting another casino in Polk County wouldn’t happen overnight.

First, the voters of Polk County would need to approve it, which could take months.

Then the commission would spend nearly a year weighing community interests. In this case, non-profit organizations that benefit from millions in annual revenue from Prairie Meadows.

“Obviously the closer that a facility is going to be to existing ones the more likelihood there’s going to be some cannibalism,” Lamberti said.

“We have a 200 million dollar shortfall,” Executive Director of the Des Moines International Airport Kevin Foley said.

The DMIA said the proposed casino may help them close a big financial gap they’re facing to build a new terminal.

But the location within the airport poses unique challenges.

“Does it meet the aerospace restrictions that exist around the airport here if we’re going to build a multi-level hotel?,” Foley said.

“Lamberti said that all said and done, a lot would need to line up for the project to happen. He added in his 9 years on the commission, plenty of people have approached him about potentially building another casino in Polk County.

“And I’ve told them what I think is required and it’s never happened,” Lamberti said.

Prairie Meadows told Local 5 they don’t have any comment, they’re just trying to take in all the information they can.

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