IRGC grants license, raises eyebrows with change - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

IRGC grants license, raises eyebrows with change

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The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) nixed the proposed Cedar Bend Casino in Linn County, saying it would cannibalize existing operations, like the Waterloo Isle.

That's why for Cedar Rapids, the go-ahead on the Greene County Casino, which came on Thursday, is salt in the wound.

"They were so strong, the Racing and Gaming Commission, as far as cannibalization and the industry," Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said. "'It was saturated.' They used their own studies. The studies haven't changed."

Those studies show the Greene project will pull about $2 million in revenue from the Isle, versus an estimated $10 million impact by Cedar Crossing.

In April, the IRGC voted to deny the license, 4 to 1.

"In granting a new license here we would have been making a significant policy shift in how gaming is regulated in Iowa," said Jeff Lamberti, IRGC Chairman.

Today, on the other hand, Lamberti voted in favor of a new facility.

"The net economic impact to the state, to the local area, outweighed the impact to existing facilities," Lamberti told KWWL.

Industry experts do note key differences between the two projects. One, Greene County is significantly more rural than Linn, so the casino could have a greater impact in terms of job creation.

Additionally, some studies show gamblers will drive about 75 miles to reach a casino, so the new facility in Jefferson will cannibalize Eastern Iowa facilities less severely.

Still, it's tough to take for Corbett.

"I think we should still continue to try," he said. "This just gives me more resolve to try for a license on behalf of our community and I hope the citizens feel that way too."

Beth Knipp, Executive Director of the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, said they're unconcerned with the Greene facility's projected impact.

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