Critical Months Ahead For Cedar Rapids Casino Plan

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - More than 10 weeks after winning a casino referendum in Linn County, supporters of a Cedar Rapids casino are eyeing a critical summer.

"We will know a lot more on June 6," said Steve Gray of Gray Venture Partners and a lead investor in Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC.

The first Thursday in June is also the day the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission will meet in Osceola to consider whether to even open applications for a gaming/casino license in 2013.

"The first step will be, 'are they going to accept any additional applications?' and we are optimistic that they will," said Gray in a Tuesday interview in his downtown Cedar Rapids office.

On March 5, Linn County voters supports the casino referendum by a healthy 61 percent to 39 percent margin in a battle that lasted months and cost millions.

Final campaign disclosure forms filed by Vote Yes Linn County and Just Say No Casino revealed $3.43 million in money spent in the weeks leading up to the referendum.

Gray said, should the commission consider gaming licenses, a decision on the Cedar Rapids casino proposal could come by fall.

Until that point, Gray outlined the following priorities:
- Selecting the casino operator.
- Finish site analysis.
- Ensuring the $115 million for the project is marked to finish the casino.

This week, an excavator does its work in the 100 block of 1st Avenue SW. This would mark the eastern edge of the proposed casino, which would run from the Linn County Sheriff's Office east to the Cedar River.

Gray said an underground parking garage would sit under the casino with the block directly north of 1st Avenue West for hundreds of parking spaces as well.

The Linn County support for the casino is in sharp contract to the recent widespread rejection of Warren County voters for a casino in that county south of Des Moines.

Gray said he did not think the Warren County referendum defeat would have any clear effect on the Linn County application. Yet Cedar Rapids Mayor and casino supporter Ron Corbett said this could thin out the field.

"It shows that not every referendum passes," said Corbett on Wednesday. "We showed local support and that will weight heavily with the Racing & Gaming commission. That's one less entity going for a license."
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