CEDAR RAPIDS — City Council members last night, on an 8-0 vote, enthusiastically approved a development agreement with a largely local investor group to sell about eight acres of city-owned land across the Cedar River from downtown for a $150-million-plus casino project.
Sufficiently effusive was the applause for Steve Gray and Drew Skogman, the lead casino investors, that council member Justin Shields said he wished the Iowa Racing and Commission members were in the council chambers.
“I just believe they would be blown away by it (the support),” Shields said.
The development agreement, which was outlined earlier in the week, needed to be approved so the investors could submit their application to the state commission for a casino license.
The commission is in the process of hiring a gaming analytics firm or firms to study the state of gaming in Iowa to see if a new casino in Cedar Rapids and/or in Greene County west of Ames and Boone can bring in more gaming revenue without harming existing casinos. A decision is expected in the spring.
The commission has said it also is interested in the amount of local support for a casino project, and City Council member Kris Gulick last night pointed to the partnership between the city and casino investors in a $28 million parking ramp as proof.
Gulick said the community would have gotten a much more modest casino project “but for” the city’s willingness to partner with the casino investors on the ramp.