The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted down a reported $164 million gaming license proposal on Thursday April 17, 2014. The vote came in at 4 to 1. Their position was that a Cedar Rapids casino would “cannibalize” the existing casinos in Iowa; a total of 18 current licenses issued. Several studies done by Marquette Advisors concluded that in their first year of business the Cedar Rapids casino would control roughly 73% of the current revenue between Iowa casinos. The estimated value of that stake is $59 million. This represents a major shift in Iowa gaming, closing down several existing casinos such as The Riverside Casino and Golf Resort and Diamond Jo Worth’s Casino. Dan Kehl, the CEO of Riverside Casino and Golf Resort, was quoted saying
“We’re glad to get this behind us,” and “We’re hopeful for our future and looking forward to reinvesting in our facility and our employees and maintaining our status as Iowa’s premier Midwest destination casino.”
A future very much in question had the commission’s decision fared differently. The Cedar Rapids did however extend an offer to The Riverside Casino just days before the commission hearing. Their offer was to share profits of The Cedar Crossing Casino to make up for the loss that Riverside Casino would take as a result of competition. The Iowa Gaming Commission was made aware of the offer yet did not factor it into their decision due to the fact that the offer was not court ordered and binding. The commission was also unable to order such an agreement, making the offer essentially mute.
Investors in the Cedar Rapids casino hailed it as a much needed economic revival to the area. Mayor Ron Corbett of Cedar Rapids claimed the $174 million project could bring “a flood of recovery and redevelopment.” Investors in the project remain hopeful in seeing this project completed regardless of the commission’s decision. The county can vote again in eight years to renew their eligibility to seek a gaming license. The Cedar Rapids Investor Group can also opt to challenge the verdict before the Legislature and the governor however this would likely have little impact on the decision. In terms of future appeals it is clear that the Cedar Rapids Group will face a united opposition from the existing casinos in Iowa. However, as of now it is still too early to tell what the future will be for the Cedar Rapids casino.