Today the Linn County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved (5-0) a Memorandum of Understanding with a group of private local investors interested in having a casino in Cedar Rapids. The Memorandum of Understanding simply states that if the issue gets on the ballot, the voters approve the referendum and the Iowa Gaming Board issues Cedar Rapids a license, then they would get the rights to the license.
Before any license can be issued:
(1) The private investor group must get over 5,000 signatures on a petition in support of putting this issue in front of the voters of Linn County.
(2) The issue must get on the ballot for a vote.
(3) The community has to pass the referendum.
(4) The final step is the Iowa Gaming Board issuing Cedar Rapids a gaming license.
It could happen that the community passes the referendum, but the Iowa Gaming Board denies a license to Cedar Rapids. This issue is in its infancy. Our Memorandum of Understanding was the first step in support of their efforts.
Why them and not anyone else? A group of local investors have to date spent several hundred thousand dollars of their own money conducting polling, focus groups and research to lay the ground work for a ballot referendum. Linn County has not and will not provide any tax dollars, contributions or financial assistance to this group. The investor group is assuming all of the risk and our Memorandum of Understanding says if this issue passes the referendum AND if the Iowa Gaming Board grants a license, they would get the license instead of an out of state group or groups. It makes sense that local dollars stay here.
Personally, I do not gamble. I like to try and keep money in my wallet, but I do understand the entertainment value that a casino brings to the community.
Here is the Gazette article about the Memorandum of Understanding:
Linn County Supervisors have signed on to a plan that could, eventually, bring a casino to Cedar Rapids.
Without debate, the board Monday morning unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Linn County Gaming Association and Cedar Rapids Development Group to support the two groups’ bid for a gaming license.
Under state law, a non-profit group — LCGA, in this case — holds a gaming license and hires a private company — CRDG, here — to operate the gambling facility. Monday’s move is an early step in local gambling backers’ effort to win a license, and also to block any outside operation from taking advantage of a Cedar Rapids gaming license, if voters approve of gambling in a referendum next year and if the state Racing and Gaming Commission decides to issue a license.
“People in our community are going to look at spending a significant amount of money,” said Supervisor Brent Oleson. “We wanted to make sure this group is protected.”
After a brief presentation by Steve Gray, one of a group of investors comprising CRDG, supervisors also voted to appoint Oleson, R-Marion, to the LCGA board.
It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, for local governments to be involved in gambling non-profits, said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Racing and Gaming Commission.
“It’s not anything that would be required,” Ohorilko said. “That would be their choice.”
Gray said he’ll ask the Cedar Rapids city council to approve a similar memorandum Tuesday. He said CRDG was reassured in early meetings with gaming commissioners their request for a license has a chance.
“We wanted to hear from them if there isn’t a snowball’s chance” for a local license, Gray told supervisors. He said the gaming board assured him “our application would get fair consideration.”
The memo says Gray’s group “will have the exclusive support of the county in the event that a gaming license application is submitted,” and the county won’t support any other applications. The memo is in effect three years after voters approve gaming or five years total, whichever is later.
The memo names Cedar Rapids City Council member Justin Shields, Leah Rodenberg, Keith Rippy, and Linda Seger as the other board members.
Rodenberg, of Marion, is a board member of the Iowa Council of Foundations. Seger has been active in the recovery of her flooded northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood, and Rippy is executive director of the Area Ambulance Service.