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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 17, 2017

Input gathered on Cedar Rapids casino proposals

By David Hotle, Golden Triangle News Service | Sep 28, 2017

CEDAR RAPIDS — Washington Economic Development Group director Ed Raber reported this morning that the majority of people who gave feedback to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) on proposed casino projects spoke out against a casino in Cedar Rapids.

Fewer people attended the commission’s public hearing on three proposed Cedar Rapids casino projects than had attended the public input meeting in 2014, the last time the commission had voted on granting a license to allow a new casio. Raber said maybe 100 people had attended while an entire ballroom full of people had attended the 2014 hearing. Raber, a former member of the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, was the first to speak during the input session.

“The IRGC’s past two independent studies have conclusively determined that a Linn County facility would dramatically cannibalize the Commission’s existing properties, especially the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Washington County, which the IRGC established to serve the east central Iowa market areas,” Raber told the commission. “Please continue to support the excellent East Central Iowa regional destination facility that the Commission cultivated in 2005 with the Riverside Casino and Golf Resport. I encourage the Commission to deny the Linn County gaming applications.”

Earlier in the day the commission toured the three sites under consideration for a new casino. The proposals under consideration are:

• Cedar Crossing, a $106 million skydeck casino over the Fourth Street NE railroad tracks and attached to the Double Tree 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;

• 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 commented that two impact studies of a casino in Cedar Rapids have not been completed yet. The studies are expected in about a week and will be available on the commission’s website.

The commission plans to come to a decision on a license in November. The commission always orders two independent studies done on proposals such as this.

 

He said many of the speakers at the hearing were members of other riverboat foundations throughout the state. In speaking with Washington County Riverboat Foundation chair David Mitchell, Raber learned the Washington County members had submitted their comments in writing to the commission members.

 

“The people who spoke against said that the commission has already studied the issue and the result was a lot of cannibalization in the state without a lot of growth,” Raber said. “For not a lot of growth, it would put a lot of hurt and strain on existing properties.”

 

Dan Kehl, CEO and developer of the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, also spoke at the meeting. He spoke against a new casino in Cedar Rapids.

 

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.

 

The commission can be contacted through an online form on its website or by writing: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, DMACC Capitol Center, 1300 Des Moines Street, Suite 100, Des Moines, IA 50309.

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