3 Cedar Rapids casino choices meet application deadline

Proposals detail possibilities for downtown casinos if license granted

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Three casino choices beat the Monday deadline for seeking a Linn County gaming license, according to staff at the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

As expected, Cedar Rapids Development Group and Wild Rose Entertainment applied to operate casinos in downtown Cedar Rapids. The applications will be made public, but were still being processed Monday, commission staff said.

“The commission is charged with determining the number and location of licenses in the state of Iowa, so it could mean anywhere from zero, one, two or three,” said commission administrator Brian Ohorilko. “We will factor in all the criteria in the administrative rules, and that will help determine if and how many licenses we grant.”

The Cedar Rapids Development Group of local investors, partnered with Los Angeles-based casino operator Peninsula Pacific, submitted two applications: the $165 million Cedar Crossing on the River and the $105 million Cedar Crossing Central. Initially, the group planned to file one with the two alternatives, but upon request filed them separately, Ohorilko said.

“Each will be judged on its own merits, so it will be as if we are considering three separate proposals for this process,” he said.

Wild Rose, in partnership with developers Hunter Parks and Steve Emerson, applied for what they call a $40 million “boutique” casino.

Each application carries a $25,000 fee, along with a $30,000 deposit for a criminal-background check. Cedar Rapids Development Group paid two application fees, but wasn’t charged for a second background check, Ohorilko said. A $20 million fee payable over five years is charged for a granted license.

The five member panel appointed by the governor now begins the review process.

Commission leaders have said they will follow a similar vetting process to one in 2014. That one ended in a 4-1 rejection of Cedar Crossing on the River. The commission board remains the same at least for now, with the terms of two members expiring April 30.

The commission plans to hire or two vendors to conduct market studies, likely in April. Late summer to early fall it will get busy with site visits to Cedar Rapids, public presentations by the applicants, results of the market studies, public hearings and a question-and-answer session.

A decision could be reached in November.

Key aspects of the three casino proposals:

• Wild Rose Cedar Rapids: 600 to 700 slot machines and 15 to 20 table games, but no additional amenities. Annual revenue projected at $42 million. The casino would be on the second floor of a new four-story mixed-use structure with a skywalk along First Avenue E and the Fourth Street SE rail corridor.

• Cedar Crossing on the River: 840 slot machines and 22 table games, restaurants, a bar, a retail area and entertainment space and an attached parking structure. Annual revenue projected at $83.8 million. The site is along First Avenue W and First Street SW on 8 acres of vacant, city-owned land. This concept is nearly identical to what was rejected in 2014.

• Cedar Crossing Central: 550 slot machines and 15 table games, dining and beverage service and an attached parking ramp replacing the Five Seasons Parkade. Annual revenue projected at $63 million. The site is the block between First Avenue E, A Avenue NE and Fifth Street NE, and includes a skydeck above the railroad tracks.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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