Iowa Gaming Commission Hears 3 Cedar Rapids Casino Plans

Cedars Rapids Casino - Wild Rose Casino - Cedar Rapids Crossing

Cedar Rapids Crossing at the River (pictured), Wild Rose Casino, and Cedars Rapids Central were the 3 plans pitched.

Iowa’s gaming regulators plan a vote on a long-discussed Cedars Rapids casino next month. Supporters of the proposed Cedars Rapids casino project have been disappointed before, but hope they have the formula right this time.

On Oct. 12, Marquette Advisors and WhiteSand Gaming pitched three separate casino plans to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

All three plans were designed to give the gaming commission options maximum latitude in approving a design. Prices for he projects ranged from $40 million dollars to as great as $180 million.

Cedar Rapids Casino has been in the works for several years, but a 2014 development plan was rejected by the Iowa Gaming Commission. At the time, there were many concerns that another casino would cannibalize revenues at already-established casinos.

Wild Rose Casino Plan

The 2017 casino plans envision a more limited casino operation. Their smaller developers would take less business from the other casinos. The Wild Rose Casino, with an estimated investment of $40 million, is the main goal for the developers.

Steve Emerson, one of the developers of the Wild Rose plan, said, “I see all those bells and whistles are already there. We just don’t have a casino. We have a hotel right across the street from it. We’ve got two parking structures that are very underutilized. We’ve got countless bars and restaurants that need something to feed into it.”

Revised Cedar Crossing Plan

The next plan was a tweaked version of the Cedar Crossing plan, which originally was pitched by the Cedar Rapids Development Group. That plan was turned down three years ago, but Marquette Advisors and WhiteSand Gaming made adjustments they believe will make the proposal more appealing this time.

The $165 million Cedar Crossing Casino would be located in the Kingston Square neighborhood. If adopted, the second proposal would create around 650 Jobs, including 355 permanent direct jobs and 295 in indirect jobs. Also, over 1,200 temporary construction jobs would be created.

Cedar Crossing Central Plan

The third plan, a $105 million proposal named “Cedar Crossing Central”, would sit next to the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown. Cedar Crossing Central is expected to provide around 427 jobs, including 231 permanent jobs and 196 indirect jobs. Cedar Crossing Central Casino includes the new Five Seasons city parking structure into the design.

An anonymous source with the Cedar Rapids Development Group mentioned that both of the Cedar Crossing plans would generate substantial revenue to the state and local governments. Both Marquette Advisors and WhiteSand Gaming came to similar conclusions regarding the financial impact of the current plans.

Iowa Gaming Commissioners Discuss Plans

During the meeting, Brian Ohorilko, the Racing and Gaming Commission director, spoke about the options for the licensing for the Cedar Rapids Casino. The commissioner has commissioned several studies, and the Gaming Commissioner director said his panel now needs to take the time to review all of the information developed, but they do not expect to need any more information to make their decision.

Brian Ohorilko said that an impact study is one of the last items to discuss before coming to a conclusion on whether to give the license or not.

The Marquette Advisors expect that the new Cedar Rapids Casino would promote economic growth in the Cedar Rapids area, due to jobs growth. Marquette said the casino would draw gaming dollars from locals, but would not draw many gamblers from beyond a 25-to-50-mile radius.

Decision Expected on November 16

All sides expect a November 16th announcement on the Cedar Rapids casino plan when the commission meets in Dubuque. In one promising sign, Brian Ohorilko said that the vetting of the gaming companies involved came back positive and that things will keep on moving forward.

Direct0r Ohorilko said commissioners were not allowed to discuss publicly their deliberations, but said a decision would be final on November 16.

Despite previous rejections, the developers sound optimistic about their chances this time. John Swain of Cedar Rapids Development Group said, “We’re very optimistic about what’s going to happen in November. We’re feeling pretty good about it. We’re looking forward to the decision.”

Limiting Iowa Casino Revenue Cannibalization

One of the reasons that previous plans were turned down was fear of too much high competition between new and old casinos. No one can predict the exact impact on revenues, so the Iowa Gaming Commission’s skepticism, along with lobbying from existing casinos, is going to be a high hurdle.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is another wild card in the process, because its officials might raise alarms about a drain on the state’s racetrack operations.