State commission says it is receptive to Linn County casino application

Linn County Gaming Association President Anne Parmley speaks Wednesday, September 8, 2021 to a group of campaign officials and supporters in support of the countywide gaming referendum on November 2. RICHARD PRATT PHOTO

Although there is no indication that the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission intends to approve or deny an application for a Linn County gaming license, the commission is willing to accept an application from the developers of Linn County casinos, IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko said Thursday.

Meeting at the Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola, the commissioners discussed Linn County voters’ approval of a referendum in November that permanently allows gambling in Linn County.

“The commission had indicated that it was prepared to accept Linn County’s nominations, specifically noting that the county had passed a referendum,” Ohorilko said. “It was one of the factors to indicate that they would accept applications. The commission had asked the staff to prepare a timetable (to) be considered at a later meeting.

The Cedar Rapids Development Group (CRDG) and its nonprofit partner, the Linn County Gaming Association (LCGA), are in the process of applying for a gaming license from the IRGC. If a license were granted, formal steps would then be taken to develop a casino.

While the IRGC has twice rejected casino proposals for Linn County, developers indicated after the November vote that they were optimistic about the prospects for casino development.

“Voters (November 2) have shown they are ready to unleash Linn County’s potential,” Jonathan Swain, president of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, CRDG’s parent company, said in a statement. “Passing this referendum was the first step on our path to building a local casino.”

“A local casino will help our communities become a more vibrant place to live,” LCGA President Anne Parmley added in the statement. “A casino will provide much-needed millions of dollars in additional support to local nonprofits. We believe we can do more and be more.

Specific plans for a Linn County casino have yet to be announced, but Mr. Swain had previously indicated that “we have always expressed a preference for (downtown) Cedar Rapids. We’ve evaluated half a dozen sites, and we’re always focusing on something that can help revitalize downtown Cedar Rapids.

At its January meeting, the IRGC reviewed studies of the statewide gambling market conducted by two consulting firms – studies that could impact the commission’s review of a proposed Linn County casino.

The two studies, conducted by Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Spectrum Gaming Group and New Orleans-based Innovation Group, were commissioned by the IRGC and submitted in mid-December. They each rate the state’s gaming industry on a number of factors, including economic impacts on host communities, public safety, employment, socio-economic issues, and comparisons between communities. gaming and non-gaming, as well as assessing other states’ gaming industries and the future of gaming in Iowa.

One of the main topics discussed in both market studies, and a key factor in the IRGC’s denial of Linn County’s gambling license applications in 2014 and 2017, was the notion of “cannibalization” – the possibility for a new casino to divert revenue from existing casino operations in the area.

Both studies noted that Cedar Rapids is in close proximity (90 miles or less) to existing state-licensed casinos in Riverside, Waterloo, Dubuque, and Davenport, raising concerns that revenue from these casinos could be affected by a Linn County casino.

“Based on Spectrum’s analysis, it appears that Cedar Rapids is well served by Waterloo and Riverside casinos, both within an hour of Cedar Rapids,” the Spectrum study notes. “Adding a casino to Cedar Rapids provides the opportunity to cannibalize these two properties significantly.”

The Innovation Group’s report projects that revenue from existing Iowa casinos would drop by just over $61 million a year if a casino opened in Linn County, but overall, revenue from State games would increase by just over $51 million with the addition of a Linn County casino.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, who attended the January meeting, said after the meeting that she was “excited” about the prospects for a Cedar Rapids casino license.

“I really wanted the commissioners to see that Cedar Rapids is all in, that the time is right,” Ms O’Donnell said. “We’ve been ready for this for 10 years, and after hearing the results of this study, I’m really optimistic that we’re in a better position than ever before in terms of getting a casino in Cedar Rapids.”

Mr Ohorilko said he expects the commission to provide more information on an application timetable at an upcoming meeting, either in April or June – possibly even before an application. casino license is filed by Linn County developers.

Comments are closed.