Cedar Rapids Group Attempts To Earn Favor In Iowa Casino Bid

Written By Adam Hensley on November 25, 2022
Cedar Rapids Development Group PAC pushes to remain strong local ties

Iowa won’t be handing out any Iowa casino licenses for another two years, but that hasn’t stopped a Cedar Rapids group from trying to build momentum.

The Cedar Rapids Development Group PAC contributed nearly $48,000 to Republican and Democratic candidates by Oct. 14 to gain some influence when it comes to the future of a potential Cedar Rapids casino.

“We made the decision to establish the Cedar Rapids Development Group PAC to encourage dialogue on policy issues related to the economic development in Linn County,” Jonathan Swain, president of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The Cedar Rapids group is a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment – the city’s preferred casino operator. It’s worth noting that local investors make up the city’s group pushing for the casino. And keeping those strong local ties remains one of the main points.

Swain told the Gazette:

“We have been part of the community for more than 10 years and remain committed to bringing a gaming facility to Linn County. That dedication is for the long term and participating in the political process is part of that commitment.”

Why isn’t Iowa granting casino licenses?

To put it simply, lawmakers believe more Iowa casinos would eat away at existing casino revenue. That’s what the mindset was earlier this year when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2497.

It was a tough blow for Cedar Rapids, which eyed a casino long before then.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, the chair of the House State Government Committee, told the Des Moines Register he’s in favor of the casino cap because he believes it preserves Iowa’s nonprofits.

Should Cedar Rapids build a casino, Kaufmann believes it would “cannibalize the nonprofits in many of our areas over in Eastern Iowa,” he told the Register.

Others view the pause in licensing as an opportunity to evaluate and avoid any rash decision. Rep. Shannon Lundgren told the Des Moines Register:

“I think this moratorium is the model to take a step back and a breather and to see how we want to move forward — if we want to make any changes to how and why the commission would act going forward.”

Not every lawmaker agrees with the new legislation

Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt is one lawmaker in favor of a Cedar Rapids casino. She didn’t think the new legislation gave those working for approval a fair shake.

“This is incredibly unfair,” she told the Des Moines Register. “People have been navigating and working with the (Iowa Racing and) Gaming Commission, and then all of a sudden we see a moratorium pop up.

We give the power to the Gaming Commission for these licenses for a reason. It’s supposed to be fair.”

Which politicians received money from the Cedar Rapids group?

According to the Gazette, campaign finance records show more than $37,000 went to Republicans and $10,500 went toward Democrats.

Here’s a list of each candidate who received funding from the Cedar Rapids Development Group PAC:

  • Kim Reynolds
  • House Speaker Pat Grassley
  • Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver
  • Outgoing State President Jack Chapman
  • Bobby Kaufmann
  • Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls
  • House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst
  • Molly Donahue
  • Erich Gierde
  • Dave Jacoby
  • Art Staed
  • Todd Taylor

What does Cedar Rapids want in its potential casino?

The city tried three times to successfully land a casino, failing on each occasion. But on the third and most recent attempt, Cedar Rapids had something big in mind.

The city’s $250 million plans for the proposed Cedar Crossing casino included an entertainment center, restaurants and bars. That’s in addition to a 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art casino.

Cedar Crossing predicted it would give 8% of its annual net gaming revenue to nonprofits. If that number were to come to fruition, it would be the highest in the state.

The Cedar Rapids area – still recovering from the 2020 derecho and COVID-19 – could use it.

What Iowa casinos are near Cedar Rapids?

One casino which opponents fear would feel the effects of a Cedar Rapids casino is Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Located in Riverside. The facility is just south of Iowa City – a little less than 40 miles from Cedar Rapids.

Riverside already stands as one of the state’s most popular locations, grabbing $10,769,157 in revenue in October alone. Only four Iowa casinos, including Riverside, totaled October revenue greater than $10 million.

Farther east, the Rhythm City Casino Resort calls Davenport home. There’s also the:

  • Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf
  • Wild Rose Casino & Hotel in Clinton
  • The Q Casino
  • Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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