Casino backers say jobs numbers are "conservative"

March 28, 2014 | 10:10 am

I posted earlier about the first TV ad being aired by Vote Yes Linn County in favor of a casino referendum in March. Casino opponents dispute the numbers, and I said healthy skepticism is always in order with job creation claims.

But Vote Yes leaders insist that their numbers are actually conservative.

The "more than 600 jobs" mentioned in the ad is actually 633 jobs, backers contend. That includes 362 workers that would be employed at the facility, with 190 in the casino, 129 in food and beverage jobs, four in retail and 32 in administration. (Yes, I know those numbers add up to 355, not 362. I've since inquired to see what happened to the other seven jobs.)

UPDATE -- Backers project that 192 would work in the casino, 129 in food and beverage, four in retail and 37 in general administration. That adds up to 362.

They point to existing casinos to back up their claims. The Diamond Jo in Dubuque, for example, employs 522 on $68 million in annual revenues. Cedar Rapids investors expect the casino here to generate $80 million, from 1,000 slots and 25 table games. The Wild Rose in Clinton employs 294 on just less than $40 million in annual revenue. Two Council Bluffs casinos employ 852.

Another 137 jobs in Cedar Rapids would come through construction of the facility, a total arrived at, backers say, in consultation with construction firms and building trades groups.

Backers also contend that reputable economic models designed to chart a casino's multiplier effect on other businesses show that the casino here would spark the creation of 134 indirect jobs. Of the three estimates, backers concede that one is the toughest to calculate. "We will stand by those numbers," said Doug Gross, the Des Moines attorney and former candidate for governor working with casino supporters.

"If I were a betting man, and I guess I am, I wouldn't bet the under on any of those numbers," said Steve Gray, the Cedar Rapids business executive leading a group of investors in the project.

And get ready for many more TV and radio ads, among other activities, crammed into the short campaign before an expected March 5 referendum. "We believe we can run a very effective campaign on that short time frame," said Marcia Rogers, spokesperson for Vote Yes Linn County.

Campaign finance disclosures aren't due until five days before a vote, so we won't know until then exactly how much is being spent and who is bankrolling each campaign.

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