Cedar Rapids council agrees to exclusive backing for local casino proposal

Item appears on consent agenda, so no comment from council

Without comment, the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a “memorandum of understanding” that says the council will exclusively support a Steve Gray-led effort to secure a state gambling license and build a casino.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors said on Monday they will approve a similar document at its meeting on Wednesday.

The memorandum of understanding extends for up to five years.

The two-plus-page document states that the City Council will “assist” the Gray-led investor group, Cedar Rapids Development LLC, and the non-profit Linn County Gaming Association Inc. in their effort to acquire a gambling license from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

In Iowa, a non-profit entity actually receives a state gaming license not the casino owner, and as part of the memorandum of understanding, the investor group, the city and county have agreed to the creation of the non-profit Linn County Gaming Association Inc. They also have agreed to name its first five members. They are City Council member Justin Shields, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson and Leah Rodenberg, Keith Rippy and Linda Seger.

On Tuesday, Gray told the City Council what he said during interviews last week. He said that his group’s market research has led it to believe that Linn County voters want gambling in the county. Gray added that his group had tried to partner with an existing casino owner and also suggested to city and county officials that they join with the private sector in building a casino. Neither idea gained any traction, he said.

No one on the council on Tuesday took time to note that the casino agreement was on the council's Tuesday consent agenda, which the council approves without comment.

However, Mayor Ron Corbett last week said the investors' request for the council's exclusive support was "reasonable" given that the investors were spending all the money and doing all the work to bring about a casino.

The Gray-led group is about to launch a petition drive to amass some 12,000 signatures, which would prompt a referendum to ask Linn County voters to approve gaming in the county. The referendum will come in May or August, Gray, a Cedar Rapids businessman and investor, has said.

If Linn voters approve gaming, Gray’s group will ask the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for a gambling license.Gray and his group want to invest $80 million to $100 million to build a casino, and Gray has suggested a few possible locations for the venue in or near downtown Cedar Rapids.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.