After rejecting a bid in 2014 that would have seen a casino open in Cedar Rapids, the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission has now voted to prepare for a request for proposal with a deadline of February 13 and conduct up to two independent studies of local market conditions.
According to a report from The Gazette newspaper, the Thursday decision from the Midwestern state’s gaming regulator was in response to a plan from Wild Rose Entertainment to build a $40 million boutique casino as part of an intended four-story downtown retail development.
Wild Rose Entertainment operates Wild Rose-branded casinos in the Iowa cities of Emmetsburg, Jefferson and Clinton and wants the second floor of its planned Cedar Rapids development to include a 25,000 sq ft casino featuring 600 to 700 slots alongside up to 20 gaming tables.
The Gazette reported that a similar 2014 bid from Cedar Rapids Development Group failed after an investigation found that any new gambling establishment for Linn County would likely cannibalize business from nearby casinos including the Riverside Casino And Golf Resort. The newspaper explained that this developer, which was made up of dozens of investors who had led a successful ballot referendum, had wanted to spend up to $174 million in order to construct its downtown Cedar Crossing venue featuring a restaurant, casino and hotel but that it was only able to secure a memorandum of understanding that city and county officials would not support and third-party bid through to 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Three of the five members of the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission are reportedly still unconvinced of the need for a new casino for Cedar Rapids with the body not likely to rule on the results of any investigation until at least next autumn.
“It’s accurate to say their take on it is “not much has changed”,” Jeff Lamberti, Chairman for the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission, told the newspaper referring to some of his fellow members. “We haven’t had tremendous population growth, tremendous economic growth, revenue growth at the casinos. We are not seeing anything out there that would tell us studies will come in any different.”
Brian Ohorilko, an administrator for the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission, reportedly declared that the current process is likely to follow 2014’s route, which saw the Cedar Rapids application filed in September of 2013 before two studies were ordered with a final decision coming in April of 2014. He proclaimed that these investigations analyzed the local market in order to determine whether there were any under-served areas of the state while looking into the specific proposal for Linn County.
Tom Timmons, President and Chief Operating Officer for Wild Rose Entertainment, reportedly told The Gazette that his firm was “pleased” with the application deadline but was unwilling to discuss any comments from members of the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission concerning current market conditions.