City-owned land in Cedar Rapids has been allocated for the construction of a casino by the local government.

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Posted on: July 12, 2023, 09:35h. 

Last updated on: July 12, 2023, 09:35h.

The Cedar Rapids City Council yesterday evening voted in favor of setting aside city-owned land located just west of the downtown area for the possible development of a commercial casino resort.

Cedar Rapids casino Iowa gaming license
An aerial view of the roughly 25-acre plot of land owned by the Cedar Rapids government that’s been entered into a right-to-purchase agreement with an investment group that wants to build a casino there. However, Iowa state lawmakers have passed a moratorium on new casino licenses being issued until at least July 2024. (Image: Google Maps)

A group of about 80 local businesspeople who formed an entity called Cedar Rapids Development Group (CRDG) has partnered with Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) in hopes of bringing a commercial casino to Iowa’s second-largest city. CRDG has unsuccessfully sought a state-issued gaming license since 2014.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) sided with the state’s casino interests in rejecting the Cedar Rapids casino application in both 2014 and 2017 on claims that the state already has enough casinos and another would hurt the current operators.

After neighboring Nebraska authorized Las Vegas-style casinos at horse racetracks in 2020, Iowa lawmakers passed a bill that prevents the IRGC from issuing additional gaming licenses until July 1, 2024.

Waiting Game

The CRDG isn’t folding on its casino ambitions despite the temporary moratorium on new gaming licenses.

Along with the CRDG investors, Cedar Rapids’ elected officials have voiced their concerns with the state continuing to overlook the town for a possible casino. Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell (R) unsuccessfully pleaded with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) to veto the casino moratorium statute.

The City Council on Tuesday ratified an agreement for the roughly 25-acre site located between F and I Avenue NW and First and Fifth Streets NW that would allow CRDG to purchase the tract should it one day recent a casino license.

CRDG and Peninsula Pacific have proposed a casino resort development called Cedar Crossing. The vacant property is where Cooper’s Mill stood before it was demolished in 2017.

We are pleased that the Cedar Rapids City Council has taken the next step to make Cedar Crossing a reality,” Jonathan Swain, president of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, said in a statement. “Cedar Crossing will be the best casino construction project that Iowa has ever seen, and it will allow us to live out our mission of service, quality, and community through charitable giving among Linn County nonprofits and funding to the City of Cedar Rapids.”

The terms of the property deal require CRDG to immediately pay the city $165,000 to establish the right-to-purchase contract. The option runs through 2025.

If the state hasn’t issued CRDG a commercial gaming permit by the initial deadline, the group would have the option to extend the right-to-purchase agreement by another year for another $55,000. Should CRDG gain a gaming concession, the group would purchase the land from the city at a fair market value.

Early Details

The proposed blueprint for Cedar Crossing includes a 160,000 square feet complex. The $250 million project would feature a casino but also restaurants and bars, plus a 1,500-seat entertainment venue.

Cedar Rapids Council Member Scott Overland voted in favor of designating the city-owned land for a possible casino, but he won’t be betting on the resort soon coming to fruition.

“It’s up to the Racing and Gaming Commission,” Overland said. “It’s a highly political situation and I wouldn’t be betting my lunch tomorrow that a license comes around any time soon.”

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