Iowa voters to decide on potential P2E casino in Linn County next week

Rendering for one of three proposed casino designs for Linn County, submitted in 2017.
Reading time 2:23 min
The voting, slated for Nov. 2, could greenlight the Cedar Rapids proposal. Two prior efforts to bring a casino failed as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission considered a new venue would take away from other nearby gambling facilities. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) believes circumstances have changed now, and its partner Cedar Rapids Group has signed a labor agreement with a group representing 18 building trade unions in the area.

Eastern Iowan voters will decide next week whether to greenlight a potential casino development in Linn County. Public Measure G will be on the ballot for community members, which will either approve or deny the Cedar Rapids Development Group (CRDG) project.

This is not the first attempt to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids: two prior efforts, in 2014 and 2017, failed as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission considered a new venue would take away from other nearby gambling facilities.

There are currently 19 licensed casinos in the state, with the closest to Linn County located in Riverside, Waterloo and Dubuque. But even though plans fell through on the last two occasions, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E), set to become the operator of the casino, believes that now, with a new set of members at the commission, things might finally go their way.

Moreover, given surging competence in neighboring states, it might be time for Iowa to step up its game. “There's gonna be competitive threats to Iowa gaming with Nebraska and Illinois building additional facilities, that in the future will be revenue down for the general fund,” said Jonathan Swain, P2E President, according to CBS Iowa.

In the meantime, Peninsula Pacific has granted the Linn County Gaming Association 8% of net revenue, which would go back into the community and its non-profits. “If you’re a county in Iowa that doesn't have a casino, that number streaks all the way to 140 thousand dollars on average,” said President of the Linn County Gaming Association, Anne Parmley.

However, the group must still secure a location should it receive the green light to develop the casino. Officials are currently looking to place the venue in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“Obviously opportunities have come and gone, some of the properties that we previously looked at before are under development for new and exciting things,” explained Swain. 

Could a casino join the list of new, exciting projects? According to the operator, the rise of nonprofits that are in need of funds and the changing circumstances in the region might lead to approval this time.

Developer Cedar Rapids is also betting on securing a permit this time around. Ahead of the voting day, the company announced a labor agreement for the potential casino: a memorandum of understanding with the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building & Construction Trades Council, a group that represents 18 building trade unions in the area.

The agreement is also dependent on Public Measure G passing on November 2, the day on which the polls will be open from 7 in the morning until 8 at night. If the measure fails, the operation of “gambling games on a gambling boat or structure will end within 60 days,” reads the agreement.

However, the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building & Construction Trades Council expects the venue to be approved. "A casino will serve as an anchor attraction that will provide more nightlife and entertainment opportunities while increasing tourism in our community," said its president, Mike Sadler, on Tuesday.

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