Iowa Casino Moratorium Might Dent Plans for Cedar Rapids Project
The Iowa legislature’s decision last week to pass a two-year moratorium on casino licenses is leaving a proposed project in Cedar Rapids in the lurch.
The proposed Cedar Crossing Casino would be built at the site of the old Cooper’s Mill in Cedar Rapids, the state’s second-largest city in population (134,621 according to 2022 estimates from worldpopulationreview.com), behind only Des Moines (208,966).
The Gazette newspaper in Cedar Rapids reported Thursday that Cedar Rapids mayor Tiffany O’Donnell wrote a letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds asking the governor to veto the moratorium. Reynolds has 30 days to decide whether to sign or reject the legislation.
“The best course for Iowa is to keep gaming decisions under the purview” of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, O’Donnell said, according to the Gazette. “They are best suited to determine the appropriate path forward for our gaming industry.”
The moratorium bill, HF 2497, originally covered betting on eSports but was expanded to include the halt on casino licenses, according to Cedar Rapids CBS-TV affiliate KGAN.
No Iowa Online Gaming Yet
As for real money online gaming, the state took up a proposal this year but it did not get very far. Iowa is among several states that have at least introduced legislation, including a few in the Midwest, but at this point only six states offer online gaming.
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, West Virginia and Michigan are the states where players can participate in online slots and table games using their mobile devices. Those states plus Nevada have also legalized online poker.
Iowa’s attempt to legalize online gaming in 2022 stalled at the committee stage in February.
Iowa Casinos As They Stand
Iowa has 19 commercial casinos and four tribal facilities. All 19 commercial casinos have added sports betting in the past couple of years.
The closest casino to Cedar Rapids is Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, about 40 miles away. Riverside took in $1.6 million in total sports betting handle for April; the state total was $177.3 million, according to figures reported by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
Cedar Crossing would be a $250 million, 160,000-square-foot casino project, according to the Gazette. That report also noted that several Republican lawmakers who helped support the casino moratorium have received campaign contributions from Dan Kehl, who opposes the Cedar Rapids project and is CEO of the company operating casinos in Riverside and Davenport.