By Keith Rippy
On Tuesday, the voters of Linn County will decide whether to approve gambling in our county.
A casino would bring exciting opportunities to our community, creating more than 600 jobs, boosting economic development and providing new entertainment, meeting and event venues. However, as the chair of the Linn County Gaming Association, I’m most excited about ways a casino would benefit our county through philanthropic contributions.
A casino would be a game-changer for many of our community charitable organizations. According to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, in 2011, Iowa casinos provided $50.76 million in contributions to their non-profit operators. It’s time that Linn County received more of those contributions.
Counties without casinos get a small percentage of the gaming tax revenues in our state. Linn County receives about $140,000 per year, while nearby counties with casinos receive millions of dollars. Adding a casino to our county would mean our community would receive more than 1,600 percent more in revenue for charitable causes — about $2.4 million to $4 million per year. Those funds could make a huge difference.
So how do we get that money, and how does the county spend it?
The Legislature set up provisions to ensure that casinos would give back to their communities. If a gaming license is approved for Linn County by the Racing and Gaming Commission, the Linn County Gaming Association will hold the casino’s operating license and will be responsible for the distribution of charitable funds from its allocated gaming tax profits.
If approved, the new casino in Linn County will contribute 3 percent of its profits to the LCGA. The LCGA will then distribute community grants for education, human and social needs, arts and culture, and community development, beautification and recreation.
Unlike other casinos in Iowa, the Linn County casino will not ask the county for a dime for construction or infrastructure, so these funds can go straight to improving the lives of our residents.
The potential impact of these funds cannot be ignored. Once it is created, the LCGA would be the ninth-largest charitable foundation in the area, in terms of revenue. It could make a huge difference in helping our community meet critical needs.
Nearby counties have accomplished great things with the revenue provided to charitable organizations by the casinos in their region.
The Clinton County Community Development Association contributed $1.4 million in grants to local groups in 2011. Those grants included funds to create a new stadium track at a community school, build sports fields, assist a museum and provide young schoolchildren with books to read.
In Dubuque County, the Dubuque Racing Association has contributed more than $37 million to local charitable groups since its creation. The chief of the Epworth Volunteer Fire Department, one of the recipients, has called the grants “vital to our existence.”
There is no reason for community organizations in Linn County to miss out on this critical opportunity that so many other communities are already enjoying. It’s time to build a casino here that will benefit our community.
Let’s create those jobs, improve our region and give back to our community — by voting yes Tuesday.
Keith Rippy, CEO of Area Ambulance, is chair of the Linn County Gaming Association. Comments: (319) 366-7654