Chairman Ed Jones hears promotion details

Chairman Ed Jones makes a note while listening to Director of Economic Development Stephanie Neppl discuss a countywide spending promotion at the Osceola County Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 25.

SIBLEY—Plans for a spending promotion in Osceola County have been set back after economic development director Stephanie Neppl learned original raffle plans failed to meet state regulations.

Neppl shared the news with the county board of supervisors at its Sept. 25 meeting.

“Apparently, it’s not a legal raffle, what we were proposing,” she said.

The proposed plan, which Neppl had discussed at the Sept. 11 meeting, was to put $100 toward every participating business to purchase gift cards. These would have been distributed in a drawing. County residents could earn an entry into the raffle for every $50 of purchases they made within the county.

However, Neppl said when she double-checked with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, she was told “the way it is being run is not a legal raffle.”

“Once you add the drawing portion to it, you make it a raffle and have to follow all the charitable gambling regulations,” Neppl said

This would require the county to acquire a gambling license and sales tax permit, which is more than the county intended when planning the promotion.

Supervisors suggested alternative formats for the promotion, such as doing a “county bucks” version of the Sibley Bucks promotion run by the Sibley Chamber of Commerce earlier in the year.

Sibley’s promotion ran April 1-May 31. Residents received $5 in Sibley Bucks for every $50 spent at a Sibley business over that two-month period, up to a total of $200 in Sibley Bucks.

Neppl said doing offering “county bucks” would require participation from businesses across the county. In mid-September she had reached out to about 100 area businesses and had 40 of them sign up to participate.

She added that the county would need to consider some way to cap spending. With no way to know how many people would participate or how much would be spent during such a promotion, Neppl warned that the county would be agreeing to pay out a substantial amount without knowing it.

“The Sibley Chamber got into a $43,000 payout because they got $430,000 and the deal was a 10 percent payout,” Neppl said.

Board chairman Ed Jones suggested sticking with the initial format of gift cards and giving them out as prizes instead of entering people in a raffle.

The county has awarded prizes as incentives before, including last year when the county held a contest for a Hawkeye Point logo.

Another suggestion from the board was for the county to buy $2,000 in gift cards from businesses and give them away to the top spenders.

This would require a great deal of regulation, since purchases of large equipment or homes would outpace the more ordinary shopping the county is trying to promote.

Neppl agreed that prizes seem like the best workaround to a drawing, but added that she will have to spend time working out a way to hold a contest that includes all types of businesses and shoppers.

Timing also is an issue for running a promotion yet this year.

“My concern now is we’re getting a little bit close to the holidays if we’re going to roll something out and that is when people tend to shop,” Neppl said. “It still would be a good idea but sometimes you try to do it when it’s off peak to really encourage people.”

The board decided to continue looking into a countywide spending promotion and will wait to hear from Neppl at a future meeting for updates.

“I’m hopeful we can come up with a different plan, but it may be in the winter or in spring,” Neppl said.

The supervisors’ next meeting is Oct. 9 at the county courthouse in Sibley. They will meet in the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church in Sibley for their Oct. 23 meeting due to the courthouse being in use.