The dueling pro- and anti-casino campaigns have spent $2.2 million to date to get their messages out before Tuesday’s vote on casino gaming in Linn County.
Vote Yes Linn County has reported spending $1,483,314, from $1,503,450 in contributions, and Just Say No Casino has reported spending $727,977, from $750,050 in contributions.
Both campaigns filed reports electronically with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board at the board’s deadline late Thursday.
The campaign disclosure reports bring no surprises about the source of the campaign contributions, though they provide the first public tally of how much the two campaigns are spending.
The 60-plus investors in the proposal to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids are funding the Vote Yes Linn County campaign, and the two state-licensed casinos apt to lose business to a Cedar Rapids casino are funding the Just Say No Casino effort.
In that latter regard, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort has contributed $600,000 to Just Say No Casino, and the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo has contributed $150,000.
Drew Skogman, a lead investor along with Steve Gray in the Cedar Rapids casino proposal, said last night that the investors have contributed what was needed to the Vote Yes effort to get the facts to the public about the casino project.
“We spent what it took to make certain our message was heard loudly and clearly,” Skogman said.
He said, too, that the investors have spent “significantly more” than they had planned and that they had upped their spending after Riverside Casino informed the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission that it intended to spend $1.5 million, and the Isle Capri Casino Hotel in Waterloo another $150,000, on the Just Say No Casino effort.
“We were up against outside casino interests with millions of profits doing or saying anything to deceive, confuse and scare Linn County voters,” Skogman said.
Sam Roecker, a consultant for the Just Say No Casino campaign, last night said that Thursday’s financial disclosure reports confirmed what his side has known all along — that the Linn County casino investors were going to far outspend the Just Say No side.
“They have spent over twice as much to rush their casino through,” Roecker said. Even so, he said, “This remains a competitive race.”
Vote Yes Linn County also is reporting $120,200 in unpaid bills, which when paid, will raise their expenditures to $1.6 million.
Steve Gray on the Vote Yes side on Thursday questioned whether Just Say No had reported all of its contributions and all of its spending.
Past casino votes
By way of comparison to Thursday’s campaign finance numbers:
In the campaign leading up to the Linn County casino vote in November 2003, Linn County Citizens for Riverboat Casino Inc. raised about $181,000, while the anti-casino campaign that year, No Dice, raised about $66,000. The pro-casino support came from two sources, Grace Entertainment Inc., a St. Joseph, Mo., casino operator, and the owners at the time of the Sinclair meatpacking site, where the casino was to be built.
Linn County voters turned down the measure, 52.84 percent to 47.16 percent, a 5.68 percent margin.
The defeat in Linn County prompted Washington County south of Iowa City to make a move to bring casino to Riverside.
In 2004, voters in Washington County approved a casino measure that cleared the way for the construction of the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. In the 2004 referendum campaign, Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington shipped $450,000 to the pro-casino Washington County Citizens for Good Jobs campaign. Dan Kehl, who ran the Burlington casino at the time of Washington County vote, sold the Burlington operation in 2006 when the Riverside casino opened to the northwest of Burlington. Kehl is now the chief executive officer of the Riverside casino, which is fighting to stop a Linn County casino.
In funding of the Just Say No Casino effort in Linn County, Kehl’s Riverside casino has featured ads with a different jobs message than his message in Washington County in 2004. Just Say No Casino says a Cedar Rapids casino won’t produce the jobs that Gray and Skogman say it will, and would hurt existing restaurant and bar jobs in Cedar Rapids.