By The Gazette Editorial Board
Years ago, when casino gambling was made legal in Iowa, it made sense to Iowa lawmakers to require a large contingent of Division of Criminal Investigation agents at each facility.
Gambling was new, and there was a great deal of uncertainty about the potential for problems.
But now, in a state with 17-state-licensed casinos and potentially more on the way, it makes less sense to have six or seven DCI agents stationed at every gambling venue. Although, clearly, criminal activity of varying degrees happens at casinos, statistics suggest that it doesn’t warrant this sort of manpower commitment from an agency tasked with investigating some of the state’s most serious crimes. The vast majority of DCI arrests at casinos last year were for misdemeanors.
It’s hard not to argue that the DCI’s limited resources might be better spent on other duties.
That’s why we think it made sense when state lawmakers approved and the governor signed a budget bill reducing the number of agents at each casino to three. And those remaining agents will be trained to investigate the sort of high-level financial crimes that could strike where huge amounts of cash change hands. The DCI also will continue to inspect casino games, cards, dice and surveillance systems.
We understand the concerns of local law enforcement agencies, where officials are worried about being called more frequently to casinos to handle various problems. It’s likely that local agencies will see more calls for service.
But each casino will be required to submit a security plan to the state explaining how they’ll adapt to the reduction in DCI agents. Casinos that currently pay for those agents will now have to beef up private security. And the state should make sure those arrangements are planned in such a way to minimize the need for service calls to local police and deputies.
Gambling is a mature, heavily regulated industry in Iowa with tight state oversight. Worries 25 years ago about casinos becoming a magnet for organized crime, fortunately, didn’t come true. Security remains a top priority, but the DCI’s role should be responsibly curtailed.
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