Local residents would lose most at Cedar Rapids casino, opponents' group says

Local bars, restaurants, retailers would also take a hit

A new casino here largely will attract and extract money from a local crowd and not from visitors to the community, and so will hurt the local economy not help it, a group opposed to a Cedar Rapids casino said Thursday.

Scott Stines from the group Just Say No Casino noted that Steve Gray, who is heading up the casino investor group called Cedar Rapids Development LLC, has said only about $18 million of the $80 million in annual adjusted gross revenue at a Cedar Rapids casino will come from those now gambling at existing casinos, a figure Gray has used to make the case that a Cedar Rapids casino won’t harm existing casinos.

However, Stines said Gray’s figures prove that a Cedar Rapids casino will get most of its revenue from the losses of local gamblers, "and most of that revenue goes into the pockets of a handful of investors," he said.

Stines and others with Just Say No Casino made their case against the casino in front of The Gazette’s editorial board.

Frank King, who is chairman of the group, cited studies that he said show that casinos hurt existing local bars, restaurants and retail shops as gamblers eat, drink, gamble and lose money in the casino. Casinos have an advantage, too, because smokers can smoke away in a casino but they can’t in bars and restaurants, he said.

Longtime casino opponent David Osterberg, a former Iowa lawmaker and the founder of the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, said a new casino in a community brings with it problem gamblers and resulting social problems and criminal problems.

Osterberg also said local residents are the mainstays of a local casino, and he cited a simple study conducted by Iowa State University some years ago that found most of the vehicles outside the Prairie Meadows horse track and casino outside Des Moines belonged to Des Moines metro area residents.

Just Say No Casino member Michael Richards said the gambling losses from local residents aren’t worth the jobs a casino may create.

Richards said, too, that residents in Cedar Rapids and Linn County have turned down casino gambling in the past because they know that hard work, innovation and business smarts make for economic development, not a casino.

"This is a very rare city," Richards said.

The group said cities with casinos in Iowa don’t view them as destructive and turn against them because the local governments and non-profit groups have come to depend on the small share of the revenue they receive from the gaming profits.

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