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"Two years is not a death sentence:" Cedar Rapids Mayor remains optimistic after Gov. Reynolds signs casino moratorium

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Cedar Crossing

Rendering of Cedar Crossing, the planned Cedar Rapids casino.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) – After a decade of hurdles and delays, Cedar Rapids looked like it would finally get the casino city leaders had been trying for after residents passed a referendum and plans for the facility were unveiled. However, legislators passed a bill in the final moments of the legislative session to pause new gaming licenses for two years. Governor Kim Reynolds signed that bill into law Friday.

This bill effectively halts plans for a casino in Cedar Rapids until 2024. After the legislature passed the bill back in May, Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O'Donnell was surprised and urged the governor to veto it.

Friday, KWWL spoke with O'Donnell after the governor opted to sign the bill into law.

“The governor called me late this afternoon to tell me she would be signing the bill, understanding I would be disappointed,” said O'Donnell. “I appreciate her willingness to call me personally and explain her thought process. She did share with me she went through due-diligence of her own and agreed she wanted to sign this bill.”

O'Donnell said the governor affirmed to her that a two year moratorium on new gaming licenses would be long enough and that there were others in the legislature who would have liked a 10 year moratorium.

“Two years is not a death sentence as far at this project goes. I reassured the governor the city of Cedar Rapids is committed to working with our developer over the next two years to do whatever we've got to do to get this project done,” she said.

The bill signed by the governor caps the number of gaming licenses in the state at 19 until 2024 as there are 19 casinos in Iowa.

O'Donnell said the Cedar Crossing casino planned for Cedar Rapids was “unlike any casino you'll find in Iowa” since it would provide restaurant and entertainment space alongside the casino portion of the building. She added that she doesn't what the people of Cedar Rapids to be discouraged by the action in Des Moines.

“The governor sees Cedar Rapids; I want people to know that here,” O'Donnell said. “She certainly sees us and our passion for the project. I have to think maybe some of that played into her staying firm on only a two year moratorium. I was very encouraged after my conversation with her.”

She added that she and the city remains committed to the project and there's a lot of work to get done in the next two years.

Governor Reynolds told O'Donnell there were concerns with the market over the past couple years with the pandemic and the current stumbles as the nation and state comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reynolds said she feels two years is enough time for the markets to stabilize and take another look in 2024.

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