Cedar Rapids Casino Backers Plead for Licenses Before Racing and Gaming Commission

Jul 13, 2017

Backers of three separate casino proposals made their pleas before the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday, which will decide later this year whether to approve a new casino for Cedar Rapids.   

The commission turned down a Cedar Rapids proposal in 2014, citing concerns about market saturation and cannibalizing other Iowa casinos.

Drawing of proposed Cedar Crossing casino for downtown Cedar Rapids
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

Developers argued before the board on Thursday that, long-term, a casino for Cedar Rapids would not harm revenues for other gaming operations.    

Wild Rose Casinos and Resorts proposes a so-called boutique casino for downtown with no accompanying restaurants.

President Tom Timmons says their project would not compete with existing restaurants and other businesses downtown.

“We're going to complement them and drive business to them,” Timmons said.  "We believe that the right size property is an urban, boutique casino constructed in an already exciting entertainment district.”

Timmons said the casino would buy rooms at the city-owned Doubletree Inn every week for gambling guests, and provide gamblers with vouchers for restaurants in the district.  

The Cedar Rapids Development Group, along with developer Peninsula Pacific, presented the commission with two different proposals.

They are resubmitting plans for a $169 million investment known as Cedar Crossing on the River, which was rejected in 2014.

Their new proposal would be a smaller casino downtown linked to the Doubletree Inn and the U.S. Cellular Center, a $106 million project dubbed Cedar Crossing Central.     

Both proposals would include restaurants and other amenities, unlike the Wild Rose plan.  

Cedar Rapids is on a roll. -City Manager Jeff Pomerantz

Wild Rose would invest $42 million.

“Our gaming industry experience, our long-term investment in developing cutting-edge gaming facilities right here in Iowa, and our commitment to developing venues that lift the surrounding communities, all speak very, very well for us being the best choice," said Peninsula Pacific Managing Partner Brent Stevens.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomerantz argued for the CRDG plans.

He said Cedar Rapids is “on a roll.”

“But we also know a project like this would be an even greater enhancement to us,” Pomerantz said.

The commission heard the presentations without comment.   

The commission will visit the proposed casino sites in Cedar Rapids in September. They will get reports on the gambling market studies at their meeting in October, and then make a decision on a possible license in November.