My parents used to engage in this whimsy, before gasoline prices started their climb to the moon earlier this century, of slipping into their car on an unpremeditated sunny afternoon to “go for a drive,” as they would call it. And before they’d decide to turn around to head home, they’d often find themselves several states away.
It became not that unusual on some of these spontaneous jaunts to fetch up in, say, Washington, D.C. — some 300 miles from their starting point in northeastern Ohio. Or Boston, which last I checked is about 600 miles distant.
I’m reminded of my parents’ adventurous sense of not always knowing where you’re going before you start as we get closer to the impending vote on a casino in Linn County. Barring a massive asteroid crashing down on the city, that decision from the citizens will occur March 5.
The investor group pushing for the new casino claims the venue would show some $80 million in gross revenue, as the crow flies, with an estimated one percent growth per year.
Research fronted by those investors contends the gaming center also would contribute a heck of a lot of tax money hereabouts — approximately $30 million in gaming, sales and property tax to the city, county, state and school district, plus an additional $2.4 million to the Linn County Gaming Association to aid local not-for-profits.
In these uncertain economic times, who’d gripe about such tantalizing numbers?
The Cedar Rapids investors have agreed from the get-go that their casino will suck away about $18 million from existing gambling halls in Iowa, and half of that from the Meskwaki Nation’s establishment in Tama County.
And while Cedar Rapids Development LLC released a list of almost 60 investors’ names a couple weeks ago, the Just Say No Casino folk complain we still don’t who will manage the venue nor exactly where the heck this thing will be built.
(For the record, the Just Say No people acknowledge existing casinos have contributed to its ad campaign. And it’s possible we’ll know sooner rather than later about the intended casino site.)
About that site: I was in the room last month when Steve Gray, Drew Skogman and other investor representatives spoke with The Gazette editorial board. Rick Smith and Todd Dorman of this newspaper each tried to pry more details about the intended site from them.
More than once, but with no success.
Now, for the record, I’m all for financial uplift. Times are tough — for some more than others — and the economic future is as certain as is whether my 16-year-old Toyota, with 158,000-plus miles on its odometer, will start on our next below-freezing morning.
And I can see the potentially dark side of the issue of sanctioned gambling’s effects on a community, too — an issue, frankly, that deserves more serious discussion.
But I’m baffled by comments on TheGazette.com by residents who claim they’ll vote against the casino solely because they’re certain it’s to be constructed downtown and they’re tired of the “whole downtown disaster.”
Aside from the lingering damage done by the flood almost five long years ago, which “disaster” would that be? More hardworking companies springing up in our shared economically vital business core? The splendor of the reopened Paramount and the excitement of the people who attend shows there? A shiny hotel-entertainment complex that will bring more money to our community?
Economics 101 tells us you need to invest before you’ll see returns.
On the other hand, I do have to say Gray and company sure seemed confident during that mid-January meeting. Gray proclaimed himself to be “cautiously optimistic” for success come March 5.
“Eighty percent of success is the unnatural belief you can make things happen,” Daniel Reed, the University of Iowa’s vice president for research and economic development, said during his keynote at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance gathering at Hawkeye Downs in January.
Gray, as one of the public faces of Cedar Rapids Development, knows projecting confidence is good for business. And it does make sense that disclosing where they want to build before they buy could drive up property costs.
But in some ways this is sort of like going for a drive with my parents: I’m fairly certain we’ll arrive at our destination — wherever that is — and I don’t doubt the good intentions of all concerned.
I’d just like to know a bit more, please, before I get in the car.