If the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission lifts its five-year moratorium on gambling expansion, voters in Black Hawk County say Waterloo should have a riverboat casino. Black Hawk County voters approved the excursion boat measure on a 2-to-1 margin. The outcome allows the nonprofit Black Hawk County Gaming Association to seek a license from the state. The association has signed a deal with the Isle of Capri, which wants to build a casino and hotel/restaurant complex near an existing water park in southeast Waterloo. Don Hoth, the leading supporter who pushed for Tuesday’s referendum, says voters recognized the benefits of the casino when they went to the polls. An arrangement with the Isle of Capri, which already operates gaming facilities in Davenport, Marquette and Bettendorf, would place the new boat on a man-made lake near the Lost Island water park in Waterloo. Hoth says he thinks Tuesday’s overwhelming vote will be enough to convince state regulators to make a policy change that would allow a gambling license for the county. Cedar Falls attorney Jay Nardini is disappointed with the outcome. Nardini admits the fight is likely over for his opposition group, which successfully worked to defeat two referendums to add slot machines at Waterloo Greyhound Park in 1994. He says it’s a pretty strong message about what the county wants. Nardini says there’ll now likely be a fight between those who want the boat at the water park and those who want one in downtown Waterloo. Nearly 47-percent of Black Hawk County’s eligible voters cast ballots on the measure. Two gambling referendums in 1994 failed in the county; the second one failed by 72 votes.
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