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Casinos are organizing against a potential competitor in Cedar Rapids

None of the five commissioners were on the board when it voted down three proposals for a Cedar...
None of the five commissioners were on the board when it voted down three proposals for a Cedar Rapids casino in 2017 and 2014. In November 2021, 55% of Linn County voters approved a referendum for a casino in Linn County.(WNDU)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:35 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa casinos are launching a campaign against adding any new casino in Iowa, especially one in Cedar Rapids.

Two studies from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, which were presented at a Thursday morning meeting, said a casino in Linn County would increase revenue for the state but substantially hurt nearby existing casinos. The city of Cedar Rapids needs three of five commissioners to approve any potential plan.

None of the five commissioners were on the board when it voted down three proposals for a Cedar Rapids casino in 2017 and 2014. In November 2021, 55% of Linn County voters approved a referendum for a casino in Linn County.

Dan Kehl, who is the CEO of Elite Casino Resorts, said in a written statement Iowa’s gambling industry needs to find ways to support border casinos from outside competition from coming out of state, like Nebraska and Illinois. He wrote the focus should be on strengthening current casinos to compete, like the ones he owns in Davenport and Riverside.

“It’s like de ja vu all over again,” Kehl wrote. “The commission has studied this issue diligently. But the fact is, a Cedar Rapids casino comes primarily at the expense of Riverside, Waterloo and Meskwaki. We’ve invested heavily in our properties to make them attractive to our guests.”

Elite Casino Resorts has plans to open new casinos in Nebraska and Illinois, according to its website. Consultants said the casinos in Riverside along with the Isle Casino in Waterloo would stand to lose the most revenue to a Cedar Rapids casino.

City Manager Jeff Pomerantz said he is optimistic about getting the commission’s approval. He wants the board to allow more competition.

“Let’s bring in the completion we’re ready for it in Cedar Rapids,” Pomerantz said. “We want to benefit the state, we want to benefit the community, I think the competitive forces are critical when others are trying to take our businesses into other states.”

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