Linn County casino campaign cost $3.43 million, final figures reveal

Meswakis joined Riverside, Waterloo casinos in failed opposition effort

Rick Smith
Published: May 20 2013 | 9:32 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:33 pm in
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New, final figures from campaigns for and against casino gaming in Linn County show the sides did not raise and spend $2.25 million, but rather $3.43 million in the weeks leading up to the hotly contested March 5 referendum.

The new dollar amounts are revealed in final campaign financial disclosure forms filed by Vote Yes Linn County and Just Say No Casino. Monday was the deadline to file the reports with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

The campaigns filed first reports of partial contributions totaling about $2.25 million between them on Feb. 28 as required before the March 5 vote, in which Linn County voters approved casino gaming by a 22-percentage-point margin, 61 percent to 39 percent.

In the first round of reporting, Vote Yes Linn County reported contributions of $1,503,450, all from the local casino investor group, Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC, led by Steve Gray and Drew Skogman.

In its latest report, Vote Yes Linn County reported $418,121 in additional contributions, all from the investor group.

In total, the group raised $$1,921,571 in support of the casino ballot measure.

On the other side of the referendum fight, Just Say No Casino reported $750,050 in contributions in the first reporting period, $600,000 of which came from Riverside Casino & Golf Resort and $150,000 from The Isle Casino & Hotel Waterloo. An individual donated $50. Both casinos said they would lose business to a Cedar Rapids casino and so fought to defeat the ballot measure.

In the latest report, Just Say No Casino reported raising $757,478 more in contributions, which consisted of an additional $653,478 from the Riverside casino and $104,000 from the Sac & Fox Tribe, owners of the Meskwaki Bingo, Casino & Hotel west of Tama.

In total, the campaign against the Linn County casino brought in $1,507,528.

Of the $3,429,099 raised by the two sides, Vote Yes Linn County raised and spent 56 percent of the total and Just Say No Casino, 44 percent of the total.

Both campaigns reported spending all that they raised in contributions.

Last week, Cedar Rapids Development Group’s Steve Gray told the Cedar Rapids City Council that the investor group now numbers some 150 investors, up from an earlier figure of about 60.

Gray said that the investor group is close to hiring a casino management firm, which he said also will make an investment in a Cedar Rapids casino. Local interests, though, will retain a majority ownership stake, he said.

The casino investors are in the process of competing to buy city-owned land — which the city has acquired in its flood-recovery buyout program — directly across the Cedar River from downtown where the investors want to build a $100-million casino.

Gray said the group expected to file an application for a state gaming license with the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission in late summer.

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