Last year, my town supported a sales tax extension designed to provide flood relief for Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids voted it down. Now, we’re asked to rubber-stamp a Linn County casino franchise with every factor predetermined in that city’s favor.
The operator, Cedar Rapids Developmental Group LLC, is already chosen and guaranteed a 10-year contract. A “memorandum of agreement” precludes competitive bidders.
Linn County and Cedar Rapids will split the 3 percent of gaming receipts allocated to local governments. Another 3 percent is set aside by law for altruistic purposes. The board to distribute this is already appointed. Their charitable spending plan includes unlimited “contribution toward flood recovery.” Presumably, this means the Cedar Rapids river levy project previously rejected by voters. Nothing is earmarked for any other city.
Cedar Rapids will almost certainly land the casino complex and its related jobs. Investors will probably buy land from the city near the city-owned hotel.
Once granted, a Linn County casino franchise will become an area monopoly and a very lucrative funding source. This proposal could have been submitted to smaller cities through the regional planning process. Public hearings might have been held before plans were decided. Instead, we’re get a “done deal.”
I don’t believe gaming profits will be shared equitably or spent wisely.
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