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Bipartisan bill pushes for Cedar Rapids casino followed by 10-year moratorium

GamblingA pair of eastern Iowa legislators, one Republican, one Democrat, have proposed a bill in the Iowa Senate to force a 10-year moratorium on new gambling licenses issued by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission – after it approves a new casino for Iowa’s second-largest city.

Senate File 24, if enacted, would prevent the issuance of new gaming permits beginning Jan. 1, 2016. It does, however, require the commission to issue a permit for a new casino in Cedar Rapids. The license fee for the new casino would also be waived by the proposed legislation.

State Sens. Wally Horn (D-Cedar Rapids) and Dan Zumbach (R-Ryan) sponsored the bill. And, while their legislation doesn’t actually name Cedar Rapids, it does restrict the new casino permit to a “city with a population of more than 100,000 and less than 150,000.”

With a population of slightly more than 126,000, Cedar Rapids is the only Iowa municipality that meets that requirement. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission previously denied a permit for a Cedar Rapids casino last April.

SF 24 also distributes more money to more counties that do not currently host casinos. It benefits counties that do host casinos by eliminating a tax on free-play promotions that draw customers.

The proposed Cedar Rapids casino would be smoke-free, which is another condition for the required permitting in the bill.

The Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Iowa Gaming Association are both opposed to the bill. Lobbyists for Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (Waterloo), Diamond Jo Casino (Dubuque), Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino (Altoona), Grand Falls Casino and Resort (Larchwood), and Riverside Casino and Golf Resort (Riverside) – the closest to the proposed Cedar Rapids casino – have also declared their opposition.

The City of Cedar Rapids and the Linn County Board of Supervisors have lobbied their support for the proposed legislation.