By Steve Gray and Drew Skogman
Tuesday, we will have the opportunity to vote on giving permission to the Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC to make an application to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for a casino license. This is an important vote about jobs, economic development and an opportunity for growth for Linn County.
l Jobs: The casino will create 137 new local construction jobs and 362 new permanent jobs. More than a million customers and tourists will visit each year and local businesses will need to add at least 134 jobs.
l Economic benefit: This referendum will determine if more than $24 million in charitable contributions and $200 million in wages, benefits and tax revenue from this casino will be poured into Linn County over the next 10 years. Thatís more than $224 million that could be used for schools, roads and flood protection.
l Keep the money in Linn County: We back this project because we support Linn County. No city or county funds are part of this plan. It does not include a hotel or convention center that would compete with existing facilities. A location was selected that needed a revitalization boost from a drastic post-flood decline.
The Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau has endorsed the casino, stating it would make it easier to attract more events and tourists. Those who understand local air travel say the casino would increase travel into Cedar Rapids, perhaps expanding travel options.
The Hawkeye Labor Council, Building Trades and Built by Pros have endorsed the casino, knowing it will bring good, sustainable employment.
Regional economic development groups see the casino as another piece of an overall changed economic picture since 2008. Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Marion Economic Development Company, Hiawatha Economic Development Corporation and the Regional Economic Development Initiative endorsed the casino because it will enhance their ability to attract business and expand existing businesses.
Even before construction can begin, the investors must put forward $20 million paid out over four years just to secure the license. The proceeds go to the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, further helping taxpayers.
A minimum of $2.4 million per year would be contributed to the Linn County Gaming Association. The impact of these new resources will be felt countywide by many educational, health and social service organizations.
The opponents of the casino have not been totally honest. The Just Say No Casino campaign hid the fact that its funding source was from nearby casinos. At least $1.65 million was committed by Riverside Casino and the Isle of Capri in Waterloo.
These outsiders have data on the Iowa gaming experience, but it does not suit their arguments, so they donít provide the information. Look closely at the time frame and geographic region of the oppositionís ďstudies.Ē They never release current reports from Iowa. The Iowa experience, our experience, contradicts their claims.
The investors and supporters are your neighbors and friends. We donate our time and money to local charitable organizations. We are shouldering all the risk. If the vote fails, the financial loss is ours. If we fail in our application to the Gaming Commission, the financial loss is ours.
Itís our time, Linn County, for jobs, new tax revenue and charitable donations!Steve Gray and Drew Skogman are Cedar Rapids businessmen who are leading Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC efforts to build a casino. Comments: mrogers@voteyeslinncounty