Note: Staff editorials represent the consensus view of The Gazette editorial board. Learn more about the process: Snapshot of 2021 election approvals from The Gazette
Cedar Rapids deserves a casino.
Ultimately, this decision is not in our hands – it’s up to state regulators to decide. But to keep the dream alive, voters must approve the Nov. 2 referendum to renew the county’s casino gambling license. The Gazette’s editorial board approved the “yes” in the referendum.
Linn County is the most populous county in the state without a casino. Five of Iowa’s 10 largest counties have casinos. Scott, Dubuque and Pottawatomie have several casinos.
We know that the people of Linn County are leaving town to spend money. Supporters of an expanded game are turning to the license plate test – go south to Riverside or north to Waterloo Island and you’ll see lots of cars from other counties. Cedar Rapids does not receive its fair share of the economic stimulus, tax revenue, and nonprofit donations associated with hosting a casino.
In recent editorial board meetings with candidates for city council and mayor, there was no opposition to the referendum. Even applicants who are not particularly fond of casinos agree that this would be a godsend for Cedar Rapids. There is no organized “no” faction for the next vote.
If that ever comes to pass, a casino would be a great asset to all of Linn County. It would increase local tax revenues, attract visitors from across the region, generate millions of dollars for local nonprofits, and serve as a cornerstone for other developments. Importantly, planners spent 8% of their income on philanthropy, well above past commitments.
Officials have expressed support for a potential casino in or near downtown Cedar Rapids. This would make it a big draw in the Midwest, where most of the casinos are in outlying areas.
With a margin of over 20 points, voters approved a referendum in 2013 to allow gambling in Linn County. However, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected Cedar Rapids’ casino proposals in 2014 and 2017.
The industry landscape has changed since then. Nebraska is in the process of liberalizing its gambling laws to allow casinos, and there are plans to open one in nearby Omaha. And Iowa has legalized sports betting, expanding the possibilities for gambling both in casinos and at home via the Internet. It’s not entirely clear if these are pros or cons for a Cedar Rapids casino prospect, but they could be factors.
Membership in the gaming commission has also changed since then. No one knows how they will react to another offer, but we think it’s worth another chance.
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