Gaming Commission Hears Support, Opposition to Proposed Cedar Rapids Casino

Sep 27, 2017

Casino operators and supporters from Eastern Iowa communities where the casinos are located don’t want Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission to license new competition in Cedar Rapids.

During a Tuesday public hearing on three requests to establish gambling in downtown Cedar Rapids, casino representatives from Waterloo, Bettendorf, Dubuque, Riverside, and Tama all said another casino would cannibalize business from their operations. They contend Iowa’s gaming market is saturated.

Two of the Cedar Rapids requests are for small venues with only slot machines.  But, Dan Kehl, chief executive of Elite Casino Resorts which operates three Iowa casinos, said size wouldn’t make a difference.

“Our market studies show,  that even with a 600 slot machine boutique casino,  that we’d still see a 20 to 30 percent drop in our revenues,” he said. “It’s hard to get past the proximity factor, regardless of the size of the facility.”

One of Kehl’s casinos is south of Iowa City at Riverside, about 40 miles from Cedar Rapids.         

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett asked the commission to “partner” with his city in its future in licensing a downtown casino.  Corbett also urged commissioners to envision the additional revenue a new casino would generate for Iowa’s cash-strapped state budget.

Next month, the commission will review studies on how a proposed Cedar Rapids casino would affect existing casinos.  The commission is scheduled to announce a decision on the proposals in November.