Impact of Cedar Rapids casino discussedBoard approves resolution asking gaming commission to deny gaming in Linn County
According to board members and staff of the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort and the Washington County Riverboat Foundation (WCRF) the effect a casino in Linn County would have on Washington County would be “devastating.” That’s the message the Washington County Board of Supervisors heard today during the supervisors’ weekly meeting.
Casino general manager Dan Franz said the proposed Cedar Rapids casino would reduce Riverside’s revenue by 31 percent. He said 250 jobs would be lost, the golf course would close, entertainment would be reduced and other portions of the casino would also be reduced or closed, including the spa and restaurants.
Franz also said the effect on state taxes from gross gaming revenues might be reduced by $5.8 million a year. The revenues going to Washington County, cities and school districts would be reduced about $278,000 a year.
WCRF board member and Washington Economic Development Group director Ed Raber told the supervisors that the resolution the supervisors were asked to approve is also going out to all of the cities and school districts in the county. He said the resolution does not ask the board to approve gambling.
The resolution lays out some of the financial impact on the WCRF and the casino and it urges the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to deny a license for gaming in Linn County.
As he listened to the presenters of the resolution, Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said he heard an entitlement mentality in their remarks. He said things change over time and that the he didn’t think they should be protected from the changes. He also said that people in Linn County might be offended if people from other counties tried to tell them what to do.
Supervisor Bob Yoder said he wanted to counter Seward’s remarks and said that Linn County voters had two chances to approve gambling before the Riverside casino was proposed and they turned it down two times.
Supervisor Richard Young said he was originally from Lee County. He described how businesses in Fort Madison were affected when the riverboat casino left Fort Madison to go to Burlington. He also said that more than 70 percent of Washington County voters voted to retain gambling in the county several years after 52 percent of voters first voted in favor of gambling. Young said that not one person had asked him to vote against the resolution.
Seward wanted to wait a week to vote on the resolution. Instead Young made the motion to adopt the resolution and it was seconded by Yoder. Supervisor Stan Stoops was not at this morning’s meeting due to illness. When it was Seward’s turn to vote on the roll call vote, he paused and then he voted in favor of the resolution, as did Supervisor Steve Davis, Yoder and Young.
In other business, the board approved the second reading of the proposed ordinance to allow the limited use of all-terrain and/or off-road utility vehicles on portions of the county’s roads.
Young proposed clarifying the procedure for handling suspended or revoked permits. County attorney Larry Brock said that the county engineer would issue the permits and that if someone wanted to appeal the decision to suspend or revoke the permit, he or she could appeal to the board of supervisors. He also said that if a ticket is issued, the magistrate could impose a fine or jail time or both, but it would be up to the engineer and supervisors to handle the suspended or revoked permits.
Yoder voted no on the motion to accept the second reading and move the proposed ordinance on to the third and final reading with Davis, Seward, and Young voting yes. The third reading could take place at the next supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, March 4.