Another county is going to take a chance that it can win a new gambling license and build a casino. A Warren County development group announced plans today for a $125-million casino and entertainment complex to be built in the northwest corner of the county near Highway five.
Warren County Economic Development Corporation executive director, Jason White, says they have selected Wild Rose Entertainment as the operator/developer for the project.
Wild Rose already runs state-licensed casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton, and earlier had floated the idea of a new casino near Ankeny. Warren County sits straight south of Polk County and now has a major roadway that connects it to Des Moines. White says the casino would first bring jobs to the county.
“But beyond that, about 80-percent of our population is on the road every day going to work in another county. So we lose a lot of dollars from the county every day,” White says. “And a county a fast growing as ours and as large as it is — almost 50,000 people — we need to do something to bring dollars into our county. And we think this is a great opportunity not just to bring a casino, but also to bring a hotel, upscale restaurant, a convention center, bowling center, a lot of different things such as that.”
Planning a casino is literally a gamble for the county, as they must first pass a referendum approving gambling, and then White and others would have to convince the Racing and Gaming Commission to grant them a license. “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Right now we’re just focused internally and trying to engage the people of Warren County about this project and what it’s potential is for everybody (who) lives here,” Smith says.
He says the next step in the plan is to collect signatures to seek a county referendum on gambling for May 7th. “It’s kind of like peeling an onion, there’s a lot layers to this. And so we want as many people to understand all the aspects of this project and its potential before we take it any further,” Smith says.
The Racing and Gaming Commission last issued a new gambling license for a casino which began operating in Lyon County northwest Iowa in June of 2011. But a group in Cedar Rapids has a proposal for a casino there and Linn County will vote on a referendum to approve gambling on March 5th.
Current casino operators in Waterloo and Riverside have chipped in to fight against the casino in Cedar Rapids. Officials at the state-licensed horse-track and casino in Altoona are expected to fight against the Warren County proposal.