Officials from Cedar Rapids and Linn County say it's Cedar Crossing casino or bust

Gaming commissioner plans to discount resolution opposing Wild Rose

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett called on state gambling regulators to let the local community pick which casino plan they prefer adding he would rather no casino at all than Wild Rose Cedar Rapids.

Wild Rose Cedar Rapids is a “boutique” casino with gambling tables and slot machines but no restaurants or entertainment proposed for downtown Cedar Rapids on First Avenue E across from the DoubleTree Hotel.

“Am I opposed to the Wild Rose casino? Yes, I am opposed,” Corbett said in an interview with The Gazette. “I’d rather see no license approved for Cedar Rapids rather than the small boutique casino proposed by Wild Rose.”

Corbett is backing Cedar Crossing, which has two applications including Cedar Crossing Central in a skydeck attached to the DoubleTree and Cedar Crossing on the River on the west bank of the Cedar River. A decision is expected in November.

Corbett is seeking the Republican nomination for governor and is a former, longtime employee of CRST, whose chairman is a major investor in Cedar Crossing and a backer of Corbett’s bid for governor.

His comments echo a resolution approved 3-1 by the Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.

Later in the interview, Corbett said the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission should bifurcate its decision making process such that the commission decides whether a gambling license should be granted, and if so the community decides which of the three applications is built, he said.

“I think this puts too much power in the hands of three people,” Corbett said, referring to three votes of the five-member panel needed for a decision.

Brent Oleson, a Linn County Supervisor who drafted the resolution supporting Cedar Crossing and opposing Wild Rose, had stronger criticism.

“It’s junk. I don’t want a rehabbed building with a bunch of slot machines in it and no entertainment,” Oleson said. “I’d rather have no casino and regroup and have a destination, something beyond just gaming.”

The Wild Rose plan calls for it to be included in a new office building.

The comments strike a different tone from what’s been said in recent months.

City officials support the Cedar Crossing plans, which they are bound to do because of a memorandum of understanding between the parties, but officials had not spoke badly about Wild Rose. Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz had said the city would work with Wild Rose should they get a gambling license. Pomeranz did not return a message seeking comment on Thursday.

Wild Rose officials also are backing off statements they’ve previously made.

Tom Timmons, the Wild Rose chief operating officer, said last year, “Wild Rose isn’t going to go anywhere that we’re not wanted.”

On Thursday when presented with the comments from Corbett and the Supervisors resolution, Jamie Buelt, a spokeswoman for Wild Rose, said none of the critics have reached out to Wild Rose and they are continuing with their application.

“We made an application to put a casino in Cedar Rapids because we believe the city and the county should have a casino,” Buelt said.

Public support is one of the metrics gambling commission members are supposed to consider in their decision.

Jeff Lamberti, a member of the commission, called the opposition odd. He said the comments and resolution would be considered, but it’s up to each commissioner how much weight to give it.

“I’ve never seen a community come out against a proposal,” said Lamberti, a former state Republican senator. “I chalk that up as a mayor and three supervisors are in support of one applicant and not the other. It’ll be part of our deliberation. We’ll take that into account.

“I found the resolution to be highly political and full of innuendo and not extremely factual. I personally am going to discount it. It went over the top and lost effect.”

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

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