Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 26, 2018

Cedar Rapids casino proposals rejected 3-2

Nov 16, 2017
Ed Raber texted members of his board a copy of the score sheet he kept during today’s vote.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


During the regular meeting of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission held this morning, commissioners denied three requests to grant licenses to new casinos in Cedar Rapids with a 3-2 vote.

Washington Economic Development Group director Ed Raber, who attended the meeting, reported the decision was made to vote on all three proposals together. According to Raber, Commissioner Delores Mertz voted in favor of all the proposals. Commissioner Carl Heinrich only showed support for the Cedar Crossing Central project.

“I’m thrilled the Commission denied the expansion of gaming in Iowa,” Raber said. “The vote failed but based on the comments most of the projects did not have much traction. I think the interest in one, and I think the Commission is sending a little bit of a message that they weren’t totally turning away Cedar Rapids, but in their remarks several of the commissioners said in a different time they would view this more favorably but they saw a very narrow way forward for proposals like this at this time.”

The proposals included Cedar Crossing, a $106 million skydeck casino over the Fourth Street NE railroad tracks and attached to the DoubleTree Hotel, U.S. Cellular Center and a new parking ramp; A larger $169 million Cedar Crossing on the River would go just west of downtown, at First Street and First Avenue SW. This is the same casino proposal the commission rejected 4-1 in 2014; and a $42 million “boutique” casino being proposed by local developers and executives from Wild Rose Entertainment, which has casinos in Emmetsburg, Clinton and Jefferson.

Raber said the commissioners had spoken favorably of the individual heartfelt letters received from the Washington County area on the impact of having the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in the area. One of the biggest concerns of a Cedar Rapids casino, according to two impact studies, was that Cedar Rapids would draw business away from Riverside. Raber said the consultants the commission hired to study the impact of the proposal had reported casinos are more “localized” than they have been in the past.

The commissioners commented that a new area casino would not positively impact state revenues, and Raber felt that was what they voted on.

Cedar Rapids developers can come back any time to submit a proposal for a new casino.

Both Washington County and the individual cities share 0.5 percent revenue from the casino — about $400,000 each annually — which is used to offset property taxes. The Washington County Riverboat Foundation also annually grants about $3 million to nonprofits.

Raber said that the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort will soon move ahead with upgrades and new amenities.

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