CEDAR RAPIDS — Prospects of a victory on Tuesday look promising for backers of a casino in Linn County, according to a survey conducted by The Gazette and KCRG-TV9.
The survey found that 51 percent of likely voters in Linn County support the construction of a new casino, 37 percent oppose the project and another 12 percent said they were undecided.
The scientific survey, which included random calls between Feb. 25 and 27 to 428 voters in Linn County, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.74 percent. The survey included calls to cellphones.
The survey also found that 51 percent of registered Linn County voters — both likely voters and those not likely to vote — supported a new casino, 35 percent opposed the idea and 14 percent were undecided.
Sam Roecker, a consultant and spokesman for the Just Say No Casino campaign, noted late Saturday afternoon that The Gazette/KCRG-TV9 poll came before Dan Kehl — CEO of the casino at Riverside south of Iowa City and the chief contributor to the effort to defeat the Cedar Rapids casino proposal — announced in Cedar Rapids on Friday that he would build a $30-million water park and bowling and event center if Linn County voters defeated the casino measure on Tuesday.
“I think everything changed on Friday,” Roecker said. “Given a choice between a casino and a family-friendly water park, people will choose what everyone in the family can enjoy.”
He said some who supported the casino because they thought it was the only economic-development option, now might be reconsidering with Kehl’s water park proposal.
Steve Gray, the Cedar Rapids businessman who is heading up the Cedar Rapids casino investor group, said early Saturday evening that the Kehl “11th-hour” unveiling of a water park “clearly backfired.”
“Linn County voters are far too smart to be manipulated by someone who does not have the best interests of our county in mind,” Gray said.
He said Vote Yes Linn County has built strong momentum for jobs, economic growth and “fun here at home.” “Now it’s a matter of getting the vote out,” Gray said.
In The Gazette/KCRG-TV9 poll, 58 percent of likely voters who had visited a casino in the past said they did so to gamble; 29 percent did so to attend a concert or special event; 26 percent to eat at a restaurant; 10 percent to get a spa treatment; and 7 percent to golf. (Some mentioned two reasons).
Thirty percent of likely voters who support a casino in Cedar Rapids said they do because of job creation; 26 percent because it will help the local economy; 25 percent to keep gambling money in the county; 16 percent to provide something new to do; and 3 percent to bring tourists to town.
For those who oppose a casino, 51 percent said it would bring more social problems and crime; 28 percent said it would hurt the local economy or was not the right form of economic development; 20 percent were morally opposed; and 2 percent thought it will take jobs from local businesses. None said there were already enough gaming options.
The survey also took a look at support for a casino based on gender, age and income, though the sample sizes are smaller and so less reliable.
With that caveat in mind, 51 percent of men and women both expressed support for a casino, with 39 percent of men and 34 percent of women against the project. The rest were undecided.
Those ages 18 to 34 expressed the strongest support for a casino — 65 percent were in favor, 21 percent against. Of those age 55 and over, 48 percent supported the casino and 41 percent were against it. For the 35 to 54 age range, 44 percent supported it and 44 percent were against it.
Those with incomes under $49,000 a year supported the casino the most — 59 percent to 24 percent — while the for-and-against percentages were 48 percent for and 39 percent against for those with incomes of $75,000 or more. The majority of those with incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 were against a casino, 52 percent, with 42 percent for it.
In 2003, Linn County voters turned down casino gaming, 52.84 percent to 47.16 percent, a 5.68 percent margin.