Several hundred sign-waving supporters of a downtown casino proposal turned out welcome the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to a public hearing in Cedar Rapids Thursday. Those who back a Cedar Rapids casino told the commissioners that the community needs the economic development the facility would bring as a final step in recovering from the 2008 floods.
Others representing casinos in Waterloo, Tama, Des Moines and Dubuque, urged the commissioners to reject the emotional appeal in favor of protecting their financial stability. A study ordered by the commission shows the Riverside casino south of Iowa City would see the biggest bite out of its bottom line from a new Cedar Rapids casino.
Riverside owner, Dan Kehl, urged the commission to protect the jobs at his operation. “If Cedar Rapids had a casino license and I was stepping forward from Riverside asking for a license —what would the commission say,? Kehl asked. “My answer, my guess would be that they would say no.” Kehl projects a 30-percent lay-off in Riverside if Cedar Rapids gets a casino.
Fort Dodge mayor, Matt Bemrich, reminded commissioners of two rejections of licenses for his city. He urged them to not grant any additional casino licenses until Fort Dodge is invited to apply again. “We were never made aware that we could turn in an application or be part of a process. As far as we know, the Cedar Rapids and the Greene County applications are both unsolicited applications,” Bemrich said. “The State has not opened or said they are willing to accept applications. These people just put them in. We would like a casino in Webster County.”
The Racing and Gaming Commission makes its decision on the Cedar Rapids license on April 17th at a meeting in Council Bluffs.