Casino ad war begins

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Vote Yes Linn County, the group pushing for casino gambling in Cedar Rapids, is out with it's first TV ad.

(If the video fails to load, you can watch it at the vote yes site linked above. Be sure to come on back now, ya hear?)

Gambling opponents, who comprise Just Say No Casino, were quick to pounce with a media release:

Casino proponents’ first TV ad raises more questions, continues to hide the truth

Just Say No Casino group demands ad be pulled until facts are proven

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Supporters of a Linn County casino have launched their first television ad, which lacks specific information and adds to the list of unanswered questions about their proposal. Frank King, chairman of Just Say No Casino, released the following statement calling on casino proponents to provide specifics to voters:

“It’s no surprise that the very same people who refuse to say where they will build this casino, who they will bring in to operate it, or who the investors are, have put an ad on the air full of empty promises. If this is really such a good deal for Linn County, why aren’t they able to backup their ad with facts?

“The truth is a casino in Cedar Rapids is no substitute for real economic development. In fact, it will take money away from existing local businesses which will cost jobs, not create them. Until they can explain where they’re coming up with the numbers in this ad, it should be pulled from the air.

“Voters in Linn County deserve an honest discussion and answers to the serious questions that have gone unanswered by supporters of this casino.”

After initially claiming that their casino would create 360 jobs, along with 130 construction jobs, the group is now claiming that 600 jobs will be created if their proposal becomes a reality. However, they have failed to explain how they’ve reached their job estimates – the focus of their advertisement.

I, too, have called for more details on the casino project, and am still waiting. But demanding that the vote yes campaign can't run any advertising until they spill all the beans is sort of silly.

But it is wise to view all job creation claims with healthy skepticism. I'm sure the pro-casino forces have models that, when run, will spit out impressive job numbers. And there are probably other models that would spit out less impressive numbers. Nobody really knows, at this point, exactly how many jobs will be created. These are educated, and also biased, guesses.

But not knowing for certain rarely stops anyone from making these kind of claims. It didn't stop Gov. Tom Vilsack from saying the Iowa Values Fund would create 50,000 or Gov. Chet Culver from saying I-JOBS would create 30,000 or our current governor from saying that 200,000 would be created under his watch.

And that's because this 600-jobs claim, and all the others, are political sales pitches, not an ivory tower symposium on accurate job creation estimating. But I can't help but wonder how many folks actually believe these sort of claims after so many past pronouncements turned out to be overblown, or whether they change any minds.

On a related note, Vote Yes Linn County opens its headquarters Thursday at 2857 Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids. A ribbon will be cut at 2 p.m.

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