Cities, board ‘wait and see’Linn County voters approve casino in Cedar Rapids
Tuesday’s vote to build a casino in Linn County didn’t surprise some in Washington County but it did disappoint.
City of Riverside Mayor Bill Poch is concerned about the effect another casino in Iowa, especially so close, would have on the local economy.
“The casino in Cedar Rapids would drastically impact the casino’s business and everybody’s business around here,” Poch said.
Like other communities in Washington County, the city of Riverside has benefited from the grants given out by the WCRF, but that hasn’t been the only benefit. The casino has brought jobs to the area.
Poch is concerned about what will happen to those jobs.
“In my mind the No. 1 loser will be the jobs,” he said. “There are a lot of Washington County and Riverside residents that work at the casino.”
The city of Brighton, like other communities in Washington County, has benefited from the grants from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation (WCRF). The foundation gives a percentage to Washington municipalities, as well as awarding grants to non-profit applicants. The grants are based upon the revenue of gaming at The Riverside Casino. Chris Davies, Brighton city clerk, had been keeping an eye on the vote.
“We had a city council meeting last night and when I came home the vote had been passed,” Davies said. “Now it’s a wait-and-see approach.”
When asked about the grants the city had received from the foundation, Davies said they have been very helpful.
“Right now we’re putting in new street lights downtown, which is over $60,000,” he said. “The city doesn’t budget for that money but it definitely gives us seed money for other projects. ”
Brighton will be sending in grant requests to the Washington County Riverboat Foundation (WCRF) this spring.
“We’re in the process right now,” Davies said. “We’re doing a grant for the fire station addition and park renovations downtown. There will be a mural honoring “Ding Darling, who Lake Darling is named after.”
The foundation has also been thinking about how a casino in Linn County would affect them. Patricia Koller, Washington County Riverboat Foundation president, wasn’t shocked by the passage of the referendum.
“The results were expected,” Koller said. “However, we (WCRF board) are optimistic that that the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, as they have in the past, will determine that it is not in the best interest of the state of Iowa to grant more gaming licenses that take revenue away from existing casinos.”
Koller has been on the WCRF since its founding. She believes that if Linn County is granted the gaming license things will change.
“Our revenue comes only from gaming,” Koller said. “We will lose revenue. The bottom line is there will be a lot less money to grant which, overall, reduces the economic activity in Washington County.”