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CR City Council member: studies 'clear and convincing' in favor of CR casino

Renderings of Cedar Crossing on the River (left), Wild Rose Cedar Rapids (middle), and Cedar Crossing Central (right). All three are proposed casinos in Cedar Rapids. (renderings courtesy Cedar Rapids Development Group/Peninsula Pacific, Aspect Architecture and Design/Hunter Companies)

Hopes may be fading fast for a Cedar Rapids casino.

Depending on who you ask.

Opponents of adding a 20th gambling establishment in Iowa will tell you the two market studies released Thursday should put the kibosh on potential momentum any of the three proposals had built.

Those studies paint a grim picture of any new casino cutting into business for current ones.

However, speaking to city council member Justin Shields, he'd be the first to tell you the studies show "clear and convincing" support for a casino in Cedar Rapids.

"I don't know how it could be anything other than 5-0," said Shields, when asked how he expected the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to vote.

Shields remembers the 2014 vote, where commissioners voted down the Cedar Crossing proposal 4-to-1.

The buzzword for the opposition -- cannibalization -- the threat of a Cedar Rapids casino taking away business from existing facilities like Riverside.

"We had had the best application we were told that [the IRGC] had ever seen, and then we were still turned away because of this magic word [cannibalization]," said Shields. "That was the only thing really on the table is so called cannibalization, that all the casino owners now use as a method to keep us down...It's really been stretched about as far you can stretch it."

The market studies project a new facility would vulture business, with at minimum 45 percent of revenue being taken from other casinos. Maximum projections indicate more than 90 percent cannibalization.

Shields has grown tired of the word, and tired of the pushback from neighboring cities and counties benefiting from facilities.

Shield said the decision isn't about " a small group of casino owners" and "there should be no dispute now if the goal of the racing and gaming commission is to do the right things for the state of Iowa."

The IRGC will make its decision in December.

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