CEDAR RAPIDS – The mayor’s Citizens Commission on Gaming suspected Friday that a casino company’s proposal floated here this week won’t be the only one from which to pick if voters approve gambling in the county Nov. 4.
In fact, the nine-member commission seemed to embrace the advice that member Tim Hill said he received from the staff of the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission (IRGC).
“An early deal with an operator is not in the city’s best interest,” Hill, a Cedar Rapids attorney, said the IRGC staff told him.
Hill told his fellow commissioners, too, that the IRGC advised that the only local casino proposal that would have a chance for a state license if Linn County voters approve gambling and if the state makes more licenses available – is the local proposal supported by local elected officials.
After the Friday meeting at City Hall, Hill elaborated, saying that for all anyone knows, the proposal made this week by Grace Entertainment Inc. and the owners of the former Farmstead Foods plant ultimately will be the successful one that gets city and county backing, if it comes to that.
“But there’s got to be buy-in with the community,” he said.
He said, too, that he didn’t think Waterloo was in any way ahead of Cedar Rapids simply because Waterloo city leaders had voted this week to support a specific casino proposal.
In Cedar Rapids, the Missouri-based Grace Entertainment, which operates the casino in Osceola, said this week it had reached a deal with the five owners of the old Farmstead property to build a $50 million casino at the site.
But the deal involves only two of four necessary ingredients the casino company and the owner of a piece of property.
As yet, there is no backing from City Hall or the Linn County Board of Supervisors – the third ingredient – and there is no non-profit association in place.
The non-profit association is a key fourth ingredient because it actually is awarded the state gaming license and enters into a deal with the gaming operator.
The mayor’s commission suggested that the non-profit association should not be one created by a casino operator or gambling advocates.
The association’s make-up should feature civic and business leaders in the community, commission members said. Commission member Linda Langston, a Linn County supervisor, said an existing, well-respected non-profit association could even fit the bill.
Hill and commission member Mark Seckman, president of Priority One, said they could foresee the formation of the key non-profit association growing out of the commission’s work. The work is set for completion in November.
The commission’s thinking runs counter to a preliminary plan announced this week by Grace Entertainment legal counsel Larry Seckington, who said Grace would join with local gaming advocates, Citizens for a Riverboat Casino, to form a non-profit association.
Hill noted that a community can have competing associations and casino proposals, but he said the one backed by City Hall and the supervisors would be the one, if any, that would win a license.
The mayor’s commission continued its mission to learn about the arrangements the state’s 10 existing riverboat casinos and three race track/casinos have with the communities in which they are located.
Hill said his research into the agreements to date showed them to be varied and offering a range of benefits to the differing communities.
Seckman seemed particularly impressed with the city of Council Bluffs and what it was able to extract in compensation and commitments from its two riverboat casinos and race track/casino.
The commission decided to hold a public forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 in the council chambers of City Hall.