By Don Claassen
First, the March 5 Linn County gambling election is all about a vote to pursue a license from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The opposition wants to know deals that are yet to be determined.
At this stage, I don’t care what it will look like, who is going to manage it or exactly where it is going to be located, yet. All of these details will be decided if the commission approves a license for the county.
Should we have a casino in Cedar Rapids? That horse has been out of the barn for years. Cedar Rapids is the last holdout to embrace gambling, yet every day we export local dollars to Clinton, Dubuque, Quad Cities, Riverside, Tama and Waterloo. Busses and limos line up to shuttle Linn County residents outside the county to spend money that should stay here.
Years ago, we had our chance to get on board. The fears we had then were overblown and unfounded. Casino communities in Iowa didn’t see a negative impact, as the opponents warned. They experienced the opposite.
Stimulated economic growth and availability of new revenue streams allowed them to support local flood control and road projects as well as expanded investments in education that wouldn’t have been available without the casino money.
On the heels of the flood of 2008, Cedar Rapids is rebuilding. The theater district, downtown, NewBo and west side are beginning to see private investment come back in the form of restaurants, retail and entertainment. Sustaining this growth is critical.
Retail, restaurants, lodging, entertainment and service labor would all benefit directly from the influx of new people to our city.
Private investors are shouldering the cost and risk for this project. (I should note that I am not an investor.)
Local business people realize that you need to invest in order to create a vibrant community. If the casino is wildly successful, the community will profit as well. Such local participation says volumes about the excitement the investors have for our future.
Sustained growth is critical to building on momentum we have with venues like Theatre Cedar Rapids, the Paramount Theatre, NewBo district and Czech Village. The additional traffic that a new casino would generate would add to this success.
If you oppose the casino, don’t go! At the same time, vote “yes” and don’t restrict Cedar Rapids from the ability to grow.
I hope you will get out and vote.
Don Claassen of Cedar Rapids is a senior account manager, consulting services and data management, IMAGINiT Technologies. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org