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"No" Vote Kills Casino Plan
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA - (CBS2/FOX28) Three years of planning came to an abrupt end Thursday morning as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny Linn County a gambling license for a proposed casino in Cedar Rapids.
It was a brutal morning for city leaders and developers who traveled to the commission meeting at the Ameristar Riverboat Casino in Council Bluffs.
First they saw all the people coming to that gaming center to enjoy blackjack and slot machines and then a few hours later they saw their own plans for gambling hit the rocks and sink.
An optimistic Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett along with lead developer Steve Gray sat near the front of the crowded ballroom with a contingent of council members and supporters.
As the five commission members evaluated the casino plan and stated their votes, the faces of the Cedar Rapids group became serious and by the time the third and deciding no vote was cast, Mayor Corbett shook his head in disbelief.
The gaming commission members all praised the plans for the Cedar Crossing Casino and echoed how important the project would be for funding future flood protection and rebuilding, but in the end they voted not to grant Iowa's 19th casino license.
An emotional Steve Gray tried to be positive, " Often times all you can do is all you can do. We can look back at how this brought the community together. There's never been better public - private participation. We had the labor unions, we had all the economic development groups, we had key community leaders, you know we did it the right way and unfortunately for Cedar Rapids the commission disagreed."
With so much community support the Cedar Crossing Casino appeared to be a good bet for a gambling license, but the members of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission made it clear that changed in late February.
That's when two studies they commissioned, indicated a huge part of the profits to be gained by the new casino would be siphoned off from existing casinos, especially in Riverside and Waterloo.
Commissioner Carl Heinrich cast the first no vote and says 30 to 40 percent of the money simply being taken away from another operation is unacceptable, " I don't like the word cannibalization and I didn't use the word cannibalization, but that's essentially what they do and they defeat the whole purpose and no one really benefits from it . "
Mayor Ron Corbett was both shocked and defiant after the commission killed the casino plans, " They turned their backs on $130 Million in private sector investment. Even by their own admission they said the racing and gaming industry is stagnant and stale and this project would have breathed new life into the industry. We did everything they asked us to during the last year and a half and they could have stopped this thing a year and a half ago and said no we're worried about saturation, don't apply, but they invited us to apply. There's a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort and a lot of community support that's gone into this project and that's why I'm extremely disappointed," Corbett said.
Some supporters have suggested the racing and gaming commission used Cedar Rapids as a test, to prove 18 casinos are all the state of Iowa can support and that the market is saturated, but commissioners say that is not the case and in fact that there will be other gambling licenses considered in western Iowa.