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Cedar Rapids Casino Backers Present Plan to State Board

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WATERLOO, Iowa - Supporters of a $174-million dollar casino project in Cedar Rapids say a presentation to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday morning went off without a hitch.

The state commission, set to decide the fate of a gaming license request in April, met at the Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo Thursday morning. Backers of the Cedar Crossing Casino project in downtown Cedar Rapids took 45 minutes to make a thorough presentation to commission members about the Cedar Rapids project.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett called it a "unique" project proclaiming it the first true urban casino in the state. In his presentation, the mayor said approval for the required state gaming license would kick start development on the west side of the Cedar River.

"Cedar Crossing Casino is part of our ongoing recovery and it will add to our tax base, create jobs and it's the biggest piece of west side flood protection," Mayor Corbett said.

Supporters gave the commission some numbers to consider in reviewing the request. Developers called Cedar Rapids one of the most "underserved" markets for gaming in Iowa noting 384,000 people live within 25 miles of the proposed site on 1st Avenue S.W. The proposed facility would offer 840 slot machines and 30 table games along with three restaurants. The project would provide for 125 construction jobs and 350 direct employees.

But the numbers that drew the most attention came from TMG Consulting which prepared a competition analysis of the Cedar Rapids casino. Owners of the Riverside casino had projected that a license in Cedar Rapids would siphon off at least a third of the current traffic there. But the consultant's report, paid for by Cedar Rapids gaming investors, put the potential impact to Riverside at $7.9-million dollars or about nine percent of current business. The biggest impact would be felt at Tama with an $8.8-million dollar yearly impact. Waterloo might lose $4-million dollars a year in business and Dubuque $1.8-million dollars with the addition of a casino in Cedar Rapids.

The figures also showed a $61-million dollar a year net gain in state gaming revenues with the addition of Cedar Rapids.

The state racing and gaming commission is ordering its own gaming analysis report to look at the impact of potential competition. Thursday's presentation is the start of a critical three month period for the proposed Cedar Rapids project. In early April, commissioners make a site visit to Cedar Rapids to look at the proposed location. Then on April 17th, it's decision day with the commission set to vote on the Cedar Crossing Casino request.

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