Cedar Rapids casino rejected by state gaming commission. Again.

Illustration by Jordan Sellergren

All three proposals for a casino in Cedar Rapids were rejected by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) on Thursday. The five members of the commission voted 3 to 2 against the proposals, during their meeting at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque.

This was the second time since voters in Linn County approved a gambling referendum in 2013 that the commission has rejected a casino in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, the commission voted 4 to 1 against issuing a license for the proposed Cedar Crossing Casino.

The three proposals before the commission this time were a large casino, Cedar Crossing on River, a smaller version of that casino called Cedar Crossing Center, as well as a “boutique” casino proposed by Wild Rose Entertainment.

“Each one has its own merit,” Commissioner Dolores Metz said, before declaring she would vote in favor of any of three proposals under consideration. Metz was the only member of the commission who voted to award a Cedar Rapids casino license in 2014.

“I felt like the second-largest city in the state deserves something,” Metz said, explaining her 2014 vote. She added, “I still feel that way.”

Commissioner Jeff Lamberti said he would vote to approve the smaller Cedar Crossing Center, but the commission didn’t consider the proposals individually. Instead, because a majority of commission had already stated they opposed awarding a casino, there was a single vote to reject all three proposals without prejudice.

The commissioners opposed to a Cedar Rapids casino cited concerns about the lack of growth in the gambling sector of Iowa’s economy and that opening another casino would damage business at the state’s existing casinos.

“I realize what any one of these casinos could do for Cedar Rapids, but at what cost outside of Cedar Rapids?” Commissioner Kristine Kramer asked rhetorically.

Kramer also echoed Metz’s statement, saying, “Cedar Rapids is Iowa’s second-largest city. But you were the second-largest city when you turned gaming down.”

In 2003, the IRGC recommended Cedar Rapids as a site for a casino, but Linn County voters rejected a ballot measure to allow casino gambling, 53 to 47 percent.

Speaking to The Gazette after the vote, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said, “It’s just a big disappointment for our community. A lot of money and a lot time was spent on the preparation of these applications only to have the same result [as 2014]. They probably just should have told us at the beginning, ‘Hey guys, don’t bother because nothing has changed.’ It is a big letdown for us.”

Because the proposals were rejected “without prejudice,” all of them can be presented to the commission again.

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