Several Cedar Valley projects could take a hit from proposed tax - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Several Cedar Valley projects could take a hit from proposed casino tax

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- The Black Hawk County Gaming Association is not granting any new funding for area projects until lawmakers agree on a 2012 budget. A proposed tax hike on Iowa casinos could cut the BHCGA's revenue by $2.5 million a year.

While much of what happens at the Isle in Waterloo is the luck of the draw, the BHCGA does count on annual casino revenues to pay for local projects.

"Right now, we get 5.75%, but if the taxes are increased, we have to pay a pro-rated share of that," said Board President Don Hoth.

When Governor Terry Branstad proposed a gaming tax hike in January, the BHCGA took notice. After all, it could cut their share of revenue by 46%. At their regular meeting on Monday, the board opted not to gamble with money they may not have.

"We just don't know, so we suspended awarding funding for any new grants until we find out exactly what the legislature is going to do," said Hoth.

The BHCGA has already promised funding to many projects, like $5 million for the Sportsplex in Waterloo. If the tax increase goes through, projects like this may not get their full funding.

"We need the Gaming Association as a partner in this, that said, the WDC and Rick Young are dedicated to making this happen. But it's definitely going to be a much tougher, uphill, battle if we don't have their grant money," said Waterloo Sports Manager Mark Gallagher.

Sportsplex organizers are counting on the BHCGA to provide nearly a fifth of the project's funding. But if revenue drops by $2.5 million, board members will have to reconsider how much they can afford to commit to this project, and several others. Those projects include the new Northeast Iowa Food Bank building and the Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Center.

"All of these are at peril right now until we find out what the legislature is going to do," Hoth reiterated.

At this point, the BHCGA is not saying "no" to anyone, or planning to cut anything. But if the gaming tax does rise to 36%, it's a good bet many projects will have to look elsewhere for financial help.

The group is still accepting applications for new projects. The next BHCGA funding application deadline is April 1st.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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