Black Hawk official worried new casino would hurt Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Black Hawk official worried new casino would hurt Waterloo

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

It's the tale of two cities -- Cedar Rapids officials say a new casino while breathe new life into downtown, but some in Waterloo are worried that lost revenue will slow momentum on important projects.

Thursday, the would-be operators came to Waterloo to make their case for a new casino in Cedar Rapids: Cedar Crossing.

The mayor of Cedar Rapids said the Cedar Crossing casino would "... put property back on the tax rolls, create more jobs, over 400 jobs in Cedar Rapids, bring in revenue to the community and help revitalize the area that was hit hard from the flood," Mayor Ron Corbett said. "And, help with flood protection."

But revenue, jobs, revitalization -- that's what Black Hawk County Gaming Association chairman Tim Hurley said Waterloo would lose if that casino is built. He's worried funding would dwindle from the Isle of Capri: money that helped fund the new Sportsplex, amphitheater and improvements at Young Arena.

"You need only look in downtown Waterloo and see the impact that has," Hurley said

He said Cedar Crossing would mean a $500,000 annual loss for Waterloo.

He said it's a bit like stealing from Peter to pay Paul -- there's only so much gambling money out there.

"The industry in Iowa is saturated in my view, and others," he said. "So this isn't a growing pie."

But a representative of TMG Consulting, which was commissioned to study Cedar Crossing's potential effects, said that's not true.

"We found that the Cedar Crossing casino should be capable of generating $75 million in gaming revenues a year, $61 million of which would be net new gaming revenue to the state of Iowa," said Suzanne Leckert, of TMG Consulting.

Hurley said he is waiting for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's (IRGC) study results in April.

"That will be more honest and objective," he said.

TMG admits, other casinos will take a hit if Cedar Crossing is approved and built.

Their presentation Thursday showed annual losses of about $9 million for the Meskwaki in Tama, and about $4 million for the Waterloo Isle. In Dubuque, they're projected to lose about $2 million total between Diamond Jo's and Mystique.'

I reached out to Mystique to see if they thought that number was accurate.

They told me their losses would be 'a lot greater than that,' citing the finite market for Iowa gambling.

"I would say that (number) would understated," Mystique spokesperson Jesus Aviles said. "We feel the economic impact would bigger than that."

He said since Mystique is owned by the city, less revenue means less money flowing into the city budget and area charities.

The Isle of Capri would not comment on the numbers, but gave this statement.

"Our experience has shown us that another casino in the market, in the region, will have an impact on our business," said Jill Alexander, a spokesperson for Isle of Capri Casinos. "We have confidence that the IRGC will closely look at any potential impacts and make the right decision for the state of Iowa."

The IRGC will release its findings in March. Then, in April, the members of the commission will visit Cedar Rapids before making the final decision.

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