Time is now to show support for Cedar Rapids casino, mayor says

Commission to tour proposed casino site Thursday

Rick Smith
Published: March 31 2014 | 5:10 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:23 am in

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sixty-one percent of Linn County voters or 37,000 people took time to vote a year ago to support casino gaming in Linn County.

To make sure that support doesn’t go for naught, Mayor Ron Corbett on Monday called on Cedar Rapids and Linn County residents to take some time on Thursday morning to turn out to show their support for the casino to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.

The commission will be in Cedar Rapids to tour the site of the proposed $150-million Cedar Crossing Casino project across the Cedar River from downtown and to conduct a public hearing on the proposal at The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and convention center.

"Now it’s time for the citizens to help us as we get down to the wire," Corbett said on Monday. "It’s important that we as a community show the Racing and Gaming Commission that Cedar Rapids and Linn County are behind this project."

The mayor said it likely took voters 30 minutes a year ago to take time to cast a ballot in support of the casino. An hour or two on Thursday of support could help ensure the casino gets commission approval for a state gaming license, he said.

City Council member Justin Shields, who helped convince Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Gray to look into building a casino in Cedar Rapids some three years ago, is asking casino supporters to wear a white shirt at the Thursday casino event to show support.

"We want to show the commissioners we’re the good guys. We wear the white shirts," Shields said.

He said he expected at least 1,000 supporters to turn out.

There will be free coffee and doughnuts to welcome the public while Corbett said there will be free parking in the Five Season ramp next to the hotel and the hotel/convention center ramp across from the hotel and convention center.

Four of the five commission members will make the site visit on Thursday and take a tour of the site and some of the flood-hit areas nearby.

Corbett said he will lead the tour, which begins at 8:30 a.m.

"It’s been a long process," the mayor said. "We’ve done everything that the Racing and Gaming Commission has asked of us. Now we need the citizens’ help in finishing the job."

The commissioners’ public hearing at the hotel and convention center will start at 10 a.m. Supporters as well as opponents from the Riverside and Waterloo casinos are expected to comment.

Two market studies done for the commission concluded a Cedar Rapids casino will take business away or "cannibalize" from existing casinos, especially the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Riverside south of Iowa City.

Shields said the existing casinos in Riverside and Waterloo have been cannibalizing gamblers from Cedar Rapids since they opened in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Gray has said the a Cedar Rapids casino will take some business from Riverside, but not damage it. Jonathan Swain, a casino industry veteran who will help manage the Cedar Rapids casino and has invested in it, said casino owners know how to adjust to competition.

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