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News Analysis: April 7, 2008

posted on April 7, 2008 at 10:04 AM

Host Paul Yeager and David Pitt of the Associated Press discuss the progress on the CIETC trial and the financial struggles of Terrible's lakeside casino.

Yeager: And David Pitt of the Associated Press, we begin tonight with the CIETC trial is a big story in Central Iowa a couple years ago but this show has moved to the Eastern part of the state because of pre-trial publicity but what happened today.

Pitt: Well, Federal Trial is getting underway in Davenport. The jury was selected today eight men and seven women. The prosecutors began their opening arguments and towards the end of that opening statement one of the jurors became ill and asked to go to the hospital. So, they brought an ambulance and took one of the jurors away.

Yeager: So, a case that has had a lot of drama in the last couple of years from when documents were taken. Well, first tell us kind of what happened in this case and why is it important?

Pitt: Well CIETC is a Central Iowa based organization that was designed to take federal money and help unemployed people get back to work basically, and the allegations are that a number of the people who worked for the agency or worked with the agency miss spent about 1.8 million dollars in that federal fund. So now several of them are on trial, three of whom are in this trial. There was to be four including the Executive Director, but she is undergoing some examination to see if she's mentally capable of undergoing trial right now.

Yeager: And there has already been a couple of pleas on that and there could be some testimony from those people of later, but that is something that was moved to Davenport. So, this is a trial that could take awhile though?

Pitt: It sounds like a couple of weeks perhaps and there are a lot of witnesses. Some like you said are people who were involved in the case early on and entered plea agreements with prosecutors. So, they will be taking the stands to testify against the people they formally worked with on this.

Yeager: And that's on a federal level but on state level were going to talk a little bit about casinos now. The Terrible's Casino in Osceola is saying they are in financial trouble. They're owned by Herbst Gaming based out in Vegas. They're struggling financially. That's what they say. Any reason, particular reason why?

Pitt: Well, it sounds like this is a group that has, like you said, a number of casinos. A few in Missouri, the one in Iowa, and then it also has a number of casinos, I think 16 in Nevada, and they seem to be having problems with their indebtedness. They are in debt to the tune of about eight hundred million dollars and that's publicly traded bond debt. So, they have to report it and that's how we kind of found out about it. They are working to restructure that debt to try to get back to a position in which they can operate. If they can't restructure it, find some other ways to finance it, and they may file for bankruptcy.

Yeager: And they could probably be hurt more if, in Iowa at least, if the smoking ban would extend to the full casino not just a casino floor like is what a possible deal is being met. They are also saying this could hurt them as well.

Pitt: Yeah one of the issues that they talked about is that they have, not only do they have the casinos, but they have slot machines in a number of different bars and locations in Nevada and I think there was a law recently passed or at some point passed they had restricted smoking. And so I think they were a bit concerned as other casinos where in the state of Iowa if this smoking bill that was working its way through the legislature becomes law and would not allow people to smoke in casinos any longer.

Yeager: You mention the legislature, where are we going with that one? Does that sound like something is going to happen? We heard there was maybe a committee meeting even right now.

Pitt: There are ten members of that committee that's basically members from the House and the Senate that were told to come together and try to reconcile the differences. One version of the bill is very restrictive doesn't really allow any exemptions. The other bill does allow exemption for a few places. So, they're going to work out those differences and then bring it back up for full vote if it gets that far.

Yeager: If it gets that far. We're under a minute now David. Other things the legislature, we're into to final days, we haven't really talked about much that they've done, but what have they done? What do they think they're going to be able to get down to the final few days here?

Pitt: Well the Governor came out today with a press conference in which he talked about some of the issues that he really is concerned about. One is the bottle bill which we talked about earlier in the session and it has really gone no where. The Governor wanted initially to increase the amount of money that people would pay for each bottle. He's now eliminated that part of it and he wants to just include more types of bottles. So he's still hammering away at that and wants it to happen. Lawmakers in his own party are saying it may not.

Yeager: Leaders in both parties have said nothing is going to happen but the Governor still thinks that thinks that this going to happen. Any other things that we need to watch for?

Pitt: One other thing that Governor brought up today was the school curriculum issue. The poor curriculum issue and this would be the state basically coming in and saying we need to teach at least these types of classes.

Yeager: We will keep an eye on that. David Pitt of The Associated Press thank you for coming tonight.

Tags: CIETC Iowa news


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