With a low cost of living, a thriving arts community, and the famous NewBo City Market, Cedar Rapids is, once again, being discussed as a prime spot for a casino.
If you’re looking for a comparison, Cedar Rapids has a population of close to 140,000, which is the same size as Dayton, OH (population 135,944). Dayton has the Hollywood Gaming Raceway nearby. Miramar, FL (135,077) has the Calder Casino run by Churchill Downs.
Cities the size of Cedar Rapids can handle a standalone casino.
There have been failed attempts in the past to put a casino/resort in Cedar Rapids, but all signs are that when the state lifts its moratorium on casino licenses next summer, Cedar Rapids is ready to pop with the plan for the Cedar Crossing Casino supported by the Cedar Rapids Development Group and Linn County Gaming Association.
What would Cedar Rapids be getting with a new land-based casino?
A place to work
Iowa is home to 19 commercial casinos, four tribal-owned casinos, and a racetrack. Iowa online casinos are prohibited, though online sports betting is thriving in the state.
The preliminary plan for Cedar Crossing calls for the establishment to employ a minimum of 300 people full-time. Cedar Rapids is blessed with big industries already in the area, including a deeply rooted farm industry. But the current unemployment rate in Cedar Rapids is 3.5%. That’s higher than the state average of 2.7.
A casino job is a good one, especially if it’s a casino/resort that provides extra services for clients. No strong American city, like Cedar Rapids, ever turns down a good employer.
There’s also no other way to put it: Casinos bring in money – big money. They also return a chunk of that back to the city through taxes and give back to their communities through donations. Cedar Crossing developers already have plans for a Community Betterment Fund that would focus on economic development in nearby areas.
A place to go
There are already plenty of activities available in Cedar Rapids. There’s the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor-league baseball team (go see Mr. Shucks the mascot!), the venerable Paramount Theatre, and temperate weather for most of the year.
Cedar Crossing can become a destination spot for local residents, as it provides restaurants, a large gaming floor, and a concert venue.
People sometimes have the wrong idea about casinos, thinking they are all grand establishments with elaborate entranceways and decadence throughout. The best casinos, however, reflect the communities they serve. For a casino to last, it has to resonate in the community it’s in.
A place to live by
People who find jobs at Cedar Crossing or related industries will want to live nearby to improve their quality of life.
Cedar Rapids exists in a casino void, with the nearest casino 40 miles away. Cedar Crossing has an early $250 million price tag, which means it has the ability to build a spot that can service community needs, big and small.
The bottom line
The Calder Casino in Miami Gardens employs 268 people and has been open since 2010. It has become a big part of the fabric of the local community. Same for the Hollywood Raceway, which opened in 2014.
Cedar Rapids is a classic American city, home of actors Ashton Kutcher and Elijah Wood. Casino developers see it as a prime spot for a casino. There will always be detractors, and yes, unfortunately, gambling addiction is always a concern, but attitudes toward casinos and gaming continue to evolve in Iowa.
The state has seen a highly-regulated and profitable enterprise with Iowa online sports betting. There are already nearly 20 state-regulated casinos in Iowa. It’s time one was in Cedar Rapids as well.