Hotel Owner: Casino Great for City's Downtown Hotel

By Rick Smith, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Hotel owner-operator Doug DeLong has some soothing words for Mayor Ron Corbett and the rest of the City Council.

A casino a few blocks from the city-owned downtown hotel and convention complex — now called DoubleTree by Hilton at the U.S. Cellular Center — will put casino-goers in the hotel beds and help the operation out "greatly," DeLong said on Tuesday.

DeLong's family owns the Longbranch Hotel and Convention Center, 90 Twixt Town Rd. NE, and — more critically with the coming of a possible Cedar Rapids casino — the Best Western Cooper's Mill Hotel, 100 F Ave. NW.

The latter, an 81-room hotel renovated after the 2008 flood, sits just down the street or smack in the middle of things depending on which west-side Cedar Rapids casino site might ultimately hold a casino operation.

"It's certainly pleasing to see," DeLong said in understated fashion on Tuesday. "But it's a concept at this point."

DeLong, though, said the proposed casino sites "would be a very good deal" for the city-owned DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids in addition to his own hotel.

"The casino's high rollers, the VIPs per se, are usually set up in a hotel like a Marriott quality or that level," said DeLong, suggesting that the DoubleTree would meet that standard. " And my little hotel, the Best Western, would pick up other folks visiting the facility."

DeLong said the casino development around the Best Western Cooper's Mill Hotel also could bring with it a section of flood protection that could benefit his hotel, which took on water to the top of the first floor in the 2008 flood.

A casino, he added, also has the potential to help other motels in the city, and he said he expected to see an uptick in business at his Longbranch Hotel on the border between Cedar Rapids and Marion as well.

Casinos attract tour buses, DeLong said, and those tours often include visits to local museums and overnight stays in addition to a stop at the casino.

He talked of a friend who owned a Best Western motel in Dubuque and who saw his business climb some 20 percent in the years when casino gaming first came to Dubuque.

"He became a multimillionaire," DeLong said. The motel since has been torn down and is a strip mall today, he added.
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