By Steve Gray and Drew Skogman / Guest Editorial
On March 5, we will have the opportunity to vote on giving permission to the Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC, to make an application to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for a casino license. This is an important vote about jobs, economic development and an opportunity for growth for the citizens of Linn County.
Jobs: The casino will create 137 new local construction jobs and 362 new permanent jobs. More than 1 million customers and tourists will visit each year and local businesses will need to add at least 134 new jobs as well.
Economic benefit: This referendum will determine if more than $24 million in charitable contributions and $200 million in wages, benefits and tax revenue from this new casino will be poured into Linn County during the next 10 years. That’s more than $224 million that could be used for schools, roads and flood protection in Linn County.
Keep the Money in Linn County: We have backed this project because we support Linn County. No city or county funds are part of this plan. It does not include a hotel or convention center that would compete with existing facilities. A location was selected that needed a revitalization boost which has seen a drastic post flood decline and that most people would describe as blighted.
The Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau has endorsed the casino stating it would make it easier to attract more events and tourists to Cedar Rapids. Those who understand local air travel say the casino would help increase air travel into Cedar Rapids, perhaps expanding travel options in the future.
The Hawkeye Labor Council, Building Trades and Built by Pros have endorsed the casino, knowing it will bring good, sustainable employment to Linn County.
Regional economic development groups see the casino as another piece of an overall changed economic picture since 2008. Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Marion Economic Development Co. (MEDCO), Hiawatha Economic Development Corp. (HEDCO) and the Regional Economic Development Initiative (RED-I) endorsed the casino because it will enhance their ability to attract new business and expand existing businesses.
The tax for a gaming license is $20 million. Right out of the gate, even before construction can begin, the investors must put forward $20 million paid out over four years, just to secure the license. The proceeds from this will go to the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund further helping taxpayers.
There is a requirement to set aside profits for benefit of the greater community. A minimum of $2.4 million per year would be contributed to the Linn County Gaming Association. The impact of these additional resources will be felt county-wide by many worthwhile educational, health and social service organizations.
The opponents of the casino have not been totally honest with Linn County voters. The Just Say No Casino campaign hid the fact that the source of their funding was from nearby casinos. In fact, at least $1.65 million was committed by Riverside Casino and the Isle of Capri in Waterloo. They were aggressively criticizing our efforts all while hoping the financing information would not be known until very late in the campaign.
These outsiders have data on the Iowa gaming experience, but it does not suit their arguments, so they don’t provide the information. Look closely at the timeframe and geographic region of the opposition’s “studies.” They never release current reports from Iowa. The fact is, the Iowa experience, our experience, contradicts their claims and so the opposition steers clear of the current factual Iowa data.
The investors and supporters are your neighbors and friends. We donate our time and money to local charitable organizations. We are shouldering all the risk on our own. If the vote fails, the financial loss is ours. If we fail in our application to the gaming commission, the financial loss is ours.
It’s our time, Linn County, for jobs, new tax revenue and charitable donations. We ask for your support on March 5 to help make Linn County even greater.
Steve Gray is chairman of ImOn Communications and lead investor in the proposed casino.
Drew Skogman is vice president of Skogman Homes. He is an investor in the proposed casino.