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New Cedar Rapids Casino Bad Business for Riverside

The roulette wheel was spinning, retirees were tugging on slots and blackjack players were scrutinizing their hands.

Outdoors the front doors, shuttle buses were awaiting those heading back to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids who didn’t win that Honda revolving atop the slot machines.

It wasn’t the major crowd that filled poker tables on New Year’s Eve, but there was enough bustle for any rainy, winter weekday afternoon to find out why Washington County’s casino has turn out to be a regional draw given that it opened in 2006 and is right now a single of the state’s top rated revenue-generating gaming destinations.

With Linn County voters set to visit the polls March five to make a decision irrespective of whether to construct a proposed casino, the top executive at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort says new competitors in the Cedar Rapids region, just a 40-minute drive away up the interstate, will be devastating to existing gaming facilities.

“It’s not going to create any new income,” mentioned Riverside Casino CEO Dan Kehl, referring to the influence of a new casino on the state’s gaming coffers. “It’s just going to cannibalize current facilities. … Linn County residents are served by five casinos inside an hour drive, so it is not like there’s pent-up demand in Linn County.”

A group of investors, led by Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Gray, hopes to create an $80 million to $100 million casino that they say will bring numerous new jobs and pump millions back into Linn County’s communities and nonprofit organizations.

Unlike Riverside with its golf course, spa and hotel, the proposed Cedar Rapids casino intends to be less of a resort and much more of an urban-style casino focused on shows, restaurants and gaming, its investors say.

“We’re going to construct a distinctive type of casino that doesn’t compete straight with Riverside or Isle of Capri (in Waterloo),” Vote Yes Linn County spokeswoman Marcia Rogers mentioned. “It may have a completely various really feel to it.”

That different feel will aid tap a new marketplace of gamers who would not have otherwise driven to Riverside, Linn County’s pro-casino group argues. But in Washington County, exactly where the casino stands as the best employer with 715 workers, some see that argument as a bluff.

“Every single town inside the state of Iowa would enjoy to possess a casino; I understand that and don’t blame them,” mentioned Bill Poch, the mayor for Riverside’s 1,000 residents. “But somebody else is going to drop.”

Poch says losing a couple of hundred jobs in Washington County, population 22,000, would possess a vastly higher impact than the creation of a handful of hundred jobs in Linn County, population 214,000.

“If they get a casino, we’d lose a chunk of jobs, and I assume that is a truth,” Poch stated. “I hear them say on the radio it is going to bring jobs, but gol dang it, Riverside and Washington County, we will need that. I do not assume the have to have is as fantastic in Cedar Rapids.”

Of your 15 licensed Iowa gaming operations that fall below the riverboat classification, Riverside ranked third final fiscal year in adjusted gross income, pulling in $90.3 million. Rogers stated her group estimates that a Cedar Rapids casino – which the investor group hopes to develop at a yet-to-be determined web page along Interstate 380 amongst the Ely and Boyson Road exits – would bring in $82.9 million its initially year.

The majority of that would be new gaming revenue, says Vote Yes for Linn County, which performed its personal study prior to placing collectively its proposal. Additionally, it would keep Linn County dollars in the area, Rogers mentioned.

“The goal and intent behind this casino has by no means been to drive other casinos out of enterprise,” Rogers stated.

A 2009 market place analysis commissioned by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission concluded that the chance for further gaming improvement in Iowa was limited, and identified the state was approaching an equilibrium exactly where the gaming supply was meeting the population demand. The study also stated that while person casino projects may well be financially feasible, they would produce only a modest quantity of new gaming demand whilst resulting in lost market share among current casinos.

A current University of Iowa study likewise found that far more casinos wouldn’t necessarily mean extra gamblers. Donald Black, a UI psychiatry professor who studies gambling, surveyed 356 Eastern Iowa residents about their gambling activity.

Black, whose study was published inside the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, identified that the number of people who didn’t gamble had risen from 72 percent in 1995 to 83 percent within the most recent survey, indicating the novelty of casinos in Iowa may possibly be wearing off.

“It seems society reaches a saturation point beyond which additional gambling opportunities won’t capture much more men and women,” Black mentioned in an short article published by UI in December.

Really should voters approve casino gambling in Linn County’s unique election, the Cedar Rapids casino proposal would still will need license approval in the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Kehl, who mentioned he was approached by the Linn County group two years ago to invest inside the new casino but turned them down soon after crunching the numbers, does not consider the concept of a Cedar Rapids casino will survive the state commission’s scrutiny.

“We don’t want any more casinos in Iowa, and I feel a lot of the state feels that way,” Kehl said.

 
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