CasinoClash 13 -- Warren County says no dice -- Updated

Todd Dorman
Published: May 8 2013 | 7:10 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:05 pm in
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So Cedar Rapids casino backers will have the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's undivided attention.

On Tuesday, Warren County voters flatly rejected a gambling referendum, with 60 percent voting no. That smashed plans for a $145 million casino/hotel complex near Norwalk just south of Des Moines. And no bowling alley for you.

The Register of Des Moines has the goods. I think this graph tells you all you need to know about the drubbing:

The gambling measure failed everywhere but in White Breast, a precinct in the southeast corner of the county that on Tuesday was responsible for 147 votes.

But how did it do in Drumstick Junction? Gizzard Gulch?

I'm no expert on Warren County politics, but I was surprised by the margin. I figured it would pass. It's almost as if last night's result was the exact opposite of Linn County's March referendum, where gambling was victorious 61-39.

In Warren County, a pile of outside casino money, in this case from from Wild Rose Entertainment, was bet on a yes vote, unlike the $750,000 spent here by existing casinos hoping to defeat gaming.  Warren County opponents were led and funded locally, for the most part.

In Linn County, local opponents couldn't distance themselves from a pricey campaign funded almost entirely by those outside casinos. The yes campaign here also was pricey,at $1.5 million, but the bills were paid by local investors.

Link Strategies, the consulting firm that helped vote no in Linn and vote yes in Warren, is now 0-2 in 2013. The need to update that web site.

This probably has little or no effect on Cedar Rapids' bid for a license, which should start revving up this summer. But having the Racing and Gaming Commission's licensing process to themselves may be of some help.

It also might  mean that opponents of expanded gambling in Iowa, including the unholy alliance of existing casinos and anti-gambling activists, now will have one target.

UPDATE -- Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett was in our shop to record a podcast (which will be posted later, probably Monday). During some informal chatting before the podcast started, he made a couple of points on the Warren County result that I hadn't considered.

For one, the very lopsided no vote in Warren County makes the lopsided yes vote in Linn County look even more impressive. The commission may take note.

Second, the commission now will need only a regional market study to judge the potential for a Cedar Rapids casino to take business from nearby existing facilities, not a statewide study. Corbett says that may speed up the licensing process.

Over at Bleeding Heartland, desmoinesdem thinks Warren County's conservative bent made its outcome so different than Linn County's:

Warren County has seen rapid exurban growth during the past decade, and socially conservative Republicans have done increasingly well there. In fact, Warren was one of the best counties for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, where Terry Branstad carried most of the state. Even though the Iowa House Republicans conceded House district 26 (covering most of Warren County) last fall, Democrat Scott Ourth defeated way-out-there Republican Steve McCoy by only about 52 percent to 48 percent.

The latest county-level voter registration figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office show that Linn County has 49,666 active registered Democrats, 37,948 Republicans, and 52,303 no-party voters.

Warren County has 9,802 active registered Democrats, 10,524 Republicans, and 10,628 no-party voters.

 

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