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City Leaders Say Casino Still Good Bet

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA  (CBS2/FOX28) - When gambling began in Iowa in 1991, casino operators boasted a more the merrier mentality in hopes of making the state a destination and riverboat gambling capital of the world. But, today there are 18 casinos across the state and many operators guard their territory.  When the city of Cedar Rapids applied for a gambling license to support the proposed $150-Million Cedar Crossing Casino near first street and first avenue SW, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission made it clear its interested in bringing new money into the state not just watching one casino steal customers and profits from another.

Two studies released Tuesday by the commission seem to indicate a Cedar Rapids Casino would do the latter.  The reports, commissioned by the RGC show Cedar Crossing could earn revenues of more than $80-Million by 2017, but the majority of that money would be siphoned off from other area casinos including Riverside and Isle Waterloo.  Its the kind of cannibalization of the industry commissioners have tried to prevent.

It is not the news Cedar Rapids city leaders and developers hoped to hear, but Mayor Ron Corbett says it doesnt change anything.  Mayor Corbett says its only one factor the commissioners will consider when voting on the gambling license and it only seems fair the city take back a little cash, Riverside in particular has taken a lot of money out of our community, so when they use the word cannibalization,  its our money anyway, we just prefer it be spent in Cedar Rapids.            

If Cedar Rapids has an ace up its sleeve, it may be the image of a city still recovering from record flooding.  The Racing and Gaming Commission is very much aware of the tremendous economic boost that could accompany a new casino, along with the tourism and satellite businesses that follow.  The question is whether commission members will give that benefit more weight than concerns over gambling saturation.

Developer Steve Gray says he believes the commission will see a very well thought out casino plan that can complement businesses across the entire area.  Gray says if you follow the logic that gambling operations cant be close together it would mean you would only find one casino in Las Vegas. Gray says the trump card may be that studies on casino competition in the past,  are many times proved to be wrong, Often, in fact more often than not, the level of cannibalization surrounding market impact that was predicted did not occur .. in fact all boats basically rose when the market expanded.

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission member Carl  Heinrich says hes viewed the two studies release on Tuesday, but hasnt made up his mind how hell vote on the Cedar Rapids request for a gambling license.  Heinrich says there is no magic number for how much new revenue a casino must project to win a license, nor is there any number for an acceptable amount of money a casino can lure away from a neighboring gambling operation.  He says commissioners are still looking forward to touring the casino site on April 3rd and then they expect to vote on the Cedar Rapids gambling license proposal during their meeting April 17th in Council Bluffs.
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