The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission reconvenes this morning for day two of a hearing for the 10 applicants seeking a new state casino license. Two of the three groups vying for a gambling license in Black Hawk County made their pitches yesterday (Tuesday). The Isle of Capri already runs riverboat casinos in Davenport, Bettendorf and Marquette and proposes a new casino on the outskirts of Waterloo, at the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 218. “This place is the best location,” Isle of Capri president and CEO Tim Hinkley says. “It’s the best market potential of any site.” Hinkley says the company was “financially prepared” and ready to break ground. Bernie Goldstein, the founder of the Isle of Capri, says the company has “deep Iowa roots,” half of its stockholders are Iowans and it is being run by his sons who are fourth-generation Iowans. “People have said the Isle of Capri is a Mississippi company and all this money is going to be going out of state and we should stay with people from Iowa,” he told the commission. “I helped start the Isle of Capri. It was an outgrowth of the first casino boat in the United States which we started in Bettendorf, Iowa, in 1991.” But a different group of folks is pushing to get a casino in downtown Waterloo. Edward Gallagher, a Waterloo lawyer is president of the Cedar Valley Gaming Company. “If there’s going to be a casino in Waterloo, it should be downtown,” Gallagher says. “Economically we know what’s happened and the deterioration of the downtown can be stopped by 855 jobs downtown, by one-million-eight-hundred thousand people who will enter the casino.” Gallagher calls it a “last chance” for Waterloo’s downtown to thrive again. The “Cedar Landing Hotel and Casino” would be built on the bank of the Cedar River which flows through downtown Waterloo.Its developers stress that the project is financed by loans from 23 Iowa banks and other Iowa investors. Kerry Burt is a fire fighter from Waterloo. “The hallmark of this project is that it’s Iowa owned, Iowa operated and Iowa financed,” Burt says. “This, by itself, is better for our community.” The first group to make its case yesterday was the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation which hopes to put a casino near Five Island Lake in Emmetsburg. Bill Wimmer, a Des Moines attorney who was hired as a spokesman for the project, told the commission it would be “hard pressed” to find another project that was more alligned with the objectives legislators outlined when they decided the state should expand the number of gambling licenses. Julie Clarkson of Emmetsburg is president of the Palo Alto Gaming Development Corporation, which hopes to build a casino far enough away from the lake’s shore so that access to the lake for recreation and fishing won’t be disturbed. “We have a beautiful lake in Emmetsburg. We also have many other wonderful features that make our community special, but all of our existing assets are really not enough,” Clarkson says. “We need job opportunities. We need career opportunities. We really need an economic kick-start in our community.” Clarkson says the Emmetsburg project is “so much more than just a casino along a highway somewhere.” Another group hoping to win a casino license in Emmetsburg will present its plan to state regulators this afternoon. The final presentation last night came from the group seeking a license in Ottumwa. Steve Siegel, a Wapello County Supervisor, says it’s about progress. “This is more than a casino for Ottumwa. It’s a development opportunity for our community,” Siegel says. Des Moines businessman Gary Kirke is the developer hoping to land casinos in both Ottumwa and Emmetsburg under the name Wild Rose. The wild rose is the state flower.
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