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State Officials Visit Site of Proposed Cedar Rapids Casino

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa The chairman of the state racing and gaming commission said Thursday that commissioners may have their most difficult decision in years determining whether Cedar Rapids should get a gaming license.

Jeff Lamberti, a former state lawmaker, said he believes based on past experiences that most commissioners have not made up their mind yet about the applications for the Cedar Crossing Project.
The racing and gaming commission convened a public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday to hear arguments on the Cedar Rapids proposal. Four of the five commissioners made the trip to Cedar Rapids to look at the proposed casino site.

The full commission is expected to make a decision on April 17 in Council Bluffs.

The day for the commissioners and Cedar Crossing supporters began with a bus ride. One stop was the proposed casino site on the west bank of the Cedar River downtown. But Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett and others on the trip also led the commission through the flood-devastated west side neighborhood of Time Check. The mayor told the commission that due to flood buyouts, there's 115 acres of land available for residential development and 108 for commercial developments on the west side.

Mayor Corbett said approving the casino request could jumpstart development and fill that available space. The public hearing at the DoubleTree Hotel drew at least 1,000 participants.

Most were casino project supporters. However a group of about 100 from the Riverside area also came to voice opposition to the license request.

Riverside owner Dan Kehl told commission members that should a license be granted to Cedar Rapids, he expects layoffs of up to 30 percent of the Riverside workforce. Kehl said the Riverside casino currently has about 750 employees.