Gazette Editorial Board
It’s all up to the state Racing and Gaming Commission now. By spring, we should know whether a license will be approved for a Cedar Rapids casino, the first in Linn County.
The casino investor group filed its formal application with the commission on Friday. The expanded plan to build on the near-west side of the river is striking and impressive.
The Cedar Crossing Casino takes its name from local history while offering a cool design with lots of glass and lighting and openness, with great views of the Cedar River and downtown area — not typical of other Iowa casinos.
The plan also responds to what focus groups told the investors: offer even more amenities that provide greater variety of entertainment experiences beyond gambling. In fact, the gambling area wasn’t expanded from an earlier plan. Instead, the proposal calls for a mid-size venue in the City Lights Event Center that could be utilized by a variety of groups. There are three types of restaurants with local history tie-ins, as well as a retail store expected.
The plan grew from 118,000 square feet that investors discussed last fall to 171,000 square feet with a very large parking ramp — 1,000 stalls — that will be linked by a skywalk and is expected to help draw more traffic to the west side and downtown for things other than gambling, too. The latter is part of the city’s development agreement with investors that will use the first 20 years of new property-tax revenue generated by the casino to pay for the ramp and skywalk.
Meanwhile, the casino group has agreed to purchase the site land from the city for a total of $4 million and also would pay a percentage of profits, as required by state law, to the city and county governments as well as the non-profit board that holds the license and would distribute funds for community projects.
Even with a strong plan, the application is no cinch. The commission, as required, will weigh whether a Cedar Rapids casino or another one proposed in Greene County would enhance Iowa’s gaming industry I without substantially damaging other casinos.
Nonetheless, it looks like the Cedar Rapids group has put its best foot forward.
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