Iowa Gaming Commission Mulls Over Granting New Casino License

The proposed Cedar Crossing Casino (l.) in Iowa has garnered a lot of attention and the gaming commission is scheduled to make a decision April 17.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is expected to vote on a new gaming facility license April 17 in Cedar Rapids, an area hit hard by the 2008 Missouri River flood. The proposed site of Cedar Crossing Casino in Kingston Village was once underwater and some feel the neighborhood could use an awakening. But commissioners are torn on whether to grant the license for several reasons.

The commission has a history of turning new casino license applications away because existing gaming facilities say they would lose revenue to them and jobs would be compromised. The process, called cannibalization, would affect Riverside and Waterloo casinos if Cedar Crossing was granted a license. The $130 million casino includes a $28 million parking ramp. 

Commissioner Carl Heinrich said the decision is a difficult one. He has considered both sides and is aware the commission is dealing with a lucrative issue. Commission Chair, Jeff Lamberti also said the decision would be hard. Another commissioner, Kristin Kramer, said she has been poring over letters from the public.

Lamberti said it is not clear if Cedar Crossing would harm the existing casinos. But opponents say a new casino would pave the way for additional expansions. Another option is imposing a decade-long moratorium for new casinos after the commission grants Cedar Crossing a license. 

Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Ron Corbett, said the city recovered from the flood due to controversial decisions the city made at the time. Results show by not going with popular opinion, the city was able to come out better than it was before the flood, Corbett said.

Kingston Village Developer, Fred Timko, said he has had a lot of interest in his properties because of the proposed casino. His business won’t suffer if the casino is denied a license, he said, but the casino would spark more projects.

Cedar Crossing would have a definite impact on the area, Timko said. He said the development of future projects depend largely on the casino’s future.

Commissioners were taken by bus to tour the proposed site and see a 3D video presentation of Cedar Crossing. Approximately 1,100 people greeted the commissioners, most of them dressed in white to show support for the casino and parking ramp.

About 90 people traveled by bus to oppose the project. Opponents included casino executives from Riverside, Waterloo, Altoona and Meskwaki Indian Settlement. Their message was clear—Iowa is already saturated with its 18 existing casinos.

Public comment was heard for four hours by the commission from 43 people of which 15 were against Cedar Crossing. More than 500 attended the public hearing.