Group looks to once again gather public support for Cedar Rapids casino

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 11:08 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Voters in Linn County will be asked, again, whether they want gambling in the area as a group has formed to make a third pitch to the community for approval.

The Linn County Gaming Association started working to secure support in November to pursue a state gaming license. That second step has been the real issue. The state rejected Cedar Rapids casino applications two previous times.

“People want to know what the chances they have at getting a casino,” Ron Corbett, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance vice president of economic development, said.

Corbett was mayor in 2013 when Linn County voters passed a referendum by over 60% in favor of authorizing gambling and racing within the county. He said many of the issues of getting volunteers, building support, and educating people haven’t changed, but he felt the dynamics within Iowa have changed since the Racing and Gaming Commission voted down previous casino projects point to an over-saturated market.

Currently, 8 casinos were within 90 miles of Cedar Rapids.

“In 2013, we didn’t have sports gambling, and that was something new the legislature passed,” Corbett said. “In the year and a half of sports betting, it has been a benefit to casino revenue.”

“There was an expansion of gambling in Nebraska and approvals to build across the borders in Illinois,” Anne Parmley, the president of the Linn County Gaming Association, said

Parmley’s group would distribute the mandatory 3% of gross revenue that casinos must set aside for non-profit groups. This could lead to a few million dollars a year.

“We will get out and talk with various groups in our community and make them aware of the benefits this would have in Linn County,” Parmley said.

Two hurdles would still need to be passed to get to that point. First, from Linn County voters and then from the Racing and Gaming Commission. Four members currently on that board were not part of the commission in 2014 and 2017.

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