Proposed Cedar Rapids Casino Gets Renewed Support

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

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By KCRG Intern

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Nearly 4,000 people and the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitor's Bureau now support a casino in Cedar Rapids. Right now, supporters are gathering the nearly 12,000 signatures needed to put the proposal to a vote.

Since the flood of 2008, revitalization and renovation sparks a mood of change throughout Cedar Rapids.

"It's nice we've had the resources from government, but it's also nice to see the private sector making investments as well,” said Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Marilee Fowler.

That's why the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau now backs a small group of investors hoping to open a casino in Cedar Rapids. You'll remember a similar proposal back in 2003, but lead investor Steve Gray says these old drawings didn't inspire support from city leaders or residents. That's why the measure was voted down. But this time around, Gray has renewed hope. He says all the redevelopment in town, has people in Cedar Rapids thinking big.

"I don't know why we can't have the small town attractions and the big town attractions. I much rather think of it as an “and” world and not an “or” world,” said investor Steve Gray.

Not just city groups, but they'll need almost 12,000 signatures from voters to even get the measure on a ballot. At last count, they're a nearly a third of the way there.

"We've got people going door to door. We're trying to be at all the big events like fire and ice this weekend and we've got people working the New Bo City Market and other big concentrations of shoppers. Despite the recent support, with anything comes opposition. The last time around, conservative groups attacked the plan because of the evils of gambling. But CVB President Marilee Fowler discredits those sentiments after living in towns with casinos.

"It brought more prosperity than it did problems,” said Fowler.

By the end of the week, the "Linn County Vote Yes Group" will have a website up and running (www.voteyeslinncounty.com) where you can read more about the proposed casino. You can also print out and sign the petition to show your support.

The big question many want answered is where will the casino be located? That's something Gray says hasn't been decided. Of course, there are plenty of rumors like off First Avenue and First Street where the old Dairy Queen used to be or the old proposed site at the Sinclair Plant. But right now, nothing's written in stone. They still need about eight-thousand signatures to even get the measure on a ballot.

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