Gazette Editorial Board
It’s been only a decade but times have changed. It’s a new era, a post-flood, rebuilding, re-creating time in Cedar Rapids and Linn County. A time to try some new projects, offer new choices.
And county voters signaled loud and strong last night that, after rejecting casino gambling 10 years ago , they
have changed their collective mind. The referendum to
allow a gambling operation was approved 61 percent to
39 percent, with more than 60,000 votes cast. Clearly, this issue got voters’ attention.
It was also a big victory for the Vote Yes Linn County developers, led by Steve Gray and Drew Skogman. Their plan is the only one endorsed by the Cedar Rapids City Council and Linn County Board of Supervisors. The largely local group weathered a vigorous and sometimes personal attack from the Just Say No Casino coalition, backed by established casino operations in Riverside and Waterloo that kicked in six-figure financial support to take on the Yes group’s ample backing.
This contest turned into a heated one in the final weeks. Riverside’s CEO, just four days before the referendum, unveiled a surprise proposal to build an indoor water park and recreation facility in Cedar Rapids if voters turned down the gambling issue.
Perhaps that tactic backfired, seen as a ploy by interests outside of Linn County. Perhaps voters simply were hungry to give gambling a try in their own county.
The Racing and Gaming Commission will weigh the Yes group’s casino proposal on its merits and also on how it impacts the gaming industry in Eastern Iowa and statewide before deciding whether to grant a license. Commission officials have said they plan to conduct new research on Iowa’s market to see what it would bear.
They may also be considering at least one other proposal, that one from Warren County in the Des Moines metro area, if voters there approve a May referendum.
Given the state’s rules and the already large number of gambling establishments, including four casino cities within an hour’s drive of Cedar Rapids, it’s appropriate that a third-party study of the market potential in Iowa’s two largest cities be considered.
For now, though, Gray, Skogman and their backers can celebrate. Their message, delivered countless times since county supervisors agreed in January to hold the referendum, obviously resonated with voters.
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