A downtown Cedar Rapids casino opposed by existing casinos. Seems like we saw that coming.

Todd Dorman
Published: February 19 2013 | 8:44 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:39 am in

So the mystery of the Cedar Rapids casino location is solved. Mostly.

If we the voters give them permission March 5, casino backers said Monday that they’d seek a state license to build an “upscale, urban” casino on the west side of the Cedar River, either just north or just south of Interstate 380, downtown. It would have a couple of restaurants, two bars and a 15,000-20,000 square-foot events center.

Backers showed media types maps highlighting a stretch of land near the river, snaking from the railroad bridge at Quaker to Second Avenue SW. All but a small portion is owned by the city after flood buyouts. And investors now have an option to purchase the rest.

Somewhere along that long expanse, investors would carve out a six-acre chunk for a 120,000 square-foot casino and parking for up to 600 vehicles. The pinpoint location of that chunk is the last mystery.

I asked for the location. I even hired a fake gumshoe. Now we have it. And we’re left to wonder whether its disclosure will affect the referendum outcome.

The way I see it, the campaign now is framed by a pair of assumptions confirmed.

You had to figure that a downtown-ish casino location was a good bet from the beginning. With all the public investment being made downtown on the hotel/convention complex, amphitheater and so on, local leaders have made attracting private investment a top priority.

The proposed casino likely will be only three or four blocks from the convention complex, a short walk or shuttle ride, or maybe a pedicab jaunt.

So the casino location fits with the city’s obvious development aims. Surprise.

On the other side, if you assumed that Just Say No Casino would be bankrolled by existing casinos that don’t want new competition, you were right.

We now know that Riverside Casino and Golf Resort plans to spend as much as $1.5 million backing the opposition. Casino supporters said Monday that the Isle of Capri in Waterloo is tossing in $150,000. We won’t know the full extent of casino help until disclosures filed at month’s end.

So an anti-gambling message is funded with gambling dollars. Surprise.

I expect that some voters will actually oppose the casino because it’s going to be downtown. I’ve heard as much from some readers. The core, it seems, is controversial.

And I suspect a few will be turned off by the meddling of casino interests.

But it seems like most voters’ opinions are already solidifying, or are set in cement already. The outcome will likely come down to which side best mobilizes them. No mystery there.

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