Linn County Supervisors on Board with Casino License Push

By Steve Gravelle, Reporter

Casino industry professionals browse through the newest slot machines on display at the Global Gaming Expo, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in Las Vegas. Casino revenues have increased this year in 18 of the 21 states that allow commercial gambling and, new casinos are opening in several jurisdictions. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

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By Kara Kelly

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Linn County supervisors have signed on to a plan that could, eventually, bring a casino to Cedar Rapids.

Without debate, the board unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Linn County Gaming Association and Cedar Rapids Development Group to support the two groups' bid for a gaming license.

Under state law, a non-profit group - LCGA, in this case - holds a gaming license and hires a private company - CRDG, here - to operate the gambling facility. Today's move is an early step in local gambling backers' effort to win a license, and also to block any outside operation from taking advantage of a Cedar Rapids gaming license, if voters approve of gambling in a referendum next year and if the state Racing and Gaming Commission decides to issue a license.

"People in our community are going to look at spending a significant amount of money," said Supervisor Brent Oleson. "We wanted to make sure this group is protected."

After a brief presentation by Steve Gray, one of a group of investors comprising CRDG, supervisors also voted to appoint Oleson, R-Marion, to the LCGA board.

It's unusual but not unheard-of for local governments to be involved in gambling non-profits, said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Racing and Gaming Commission.

"It’s not anything that would be required," Ohorilko said. "That would be their choice."

Gray said he'll ask the city council to approve a similar memorandum Tuesday. He said CRDG was reassured in early meetings with gaming commissioners their request for a license has a chance.

"We wanted to hear from them if there isn't a snowball's chance" for a local license, Gray told supervisors. He said the gaming board assured him "our application would get fair consideration."

The memo says Gray's group "will have the exclusive support of the county in the event that a gaming license application is submitted," and the county won't support any other applications. The memo is in effect three years after voters approve gaming or five years total, whichever is later.

The memo names Cedar Rapids City Council member Justin Shields, Leah Rodenberg, Keith Rippy, and Linda Seger as the other board members.

Rodenberg, of Marion, is a board member of the Iowa Council of Foundations. Seger has been active in the recovery of her flooded northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood, and Rippy is executive director of the Area Ambulance Service.

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