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UPDATE: Waterloo gaming officials elated at no vote on C.R. casino

DUBUQUE — Officials with the Black Hawk County Gaming Association are elated the state gaming commission has rejected proposals for a casino in Cedar Rapids.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to deny a license for any of three proposed Cedar Rapids casinos.

“The right decision was made,” said Tim Hurley, former Waterloo mayor and BHCGA president, who attended the commission meeting.

For the 10-year-old Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, “it means, initially, stability. And in terms of the near future, the corporate owners of the Isle are more likely to go ahead with very extensive capital improvements on the facilities. It means no loss of jobs. And it means that the gaming association can continue doing its good work that’s been seen in the $40 million we’ve awarded in the last 10 years. We anticipate staying pretty closely on that pace.”

The BHCGA, as the nonprofit holder of the Isle’s gaming licenses, distributes 5.75 percent of the casino’s adjusted gross revenues for a host of community projects in Black Hawk and surrounding counties.

“I know they’ve looked at improvements for some time out there,” Hurley said of Isle officials. Approval of a Cedar Rapids casino “would have been a dampener on those plans,” Hurley said.

Waterloo casino officials argued the eastern Iowa gaming market is saturated and a Cedar Rapids casino would have hurt nearby existing casinos. For the Waterloo casino, 60 miles away, Black Hawk Gaming officials estimated that would have cost them $1 million a year in potential grant revenue, about a 17 to 20 percent drop.

Hurley and Black Hawk Gaming executive director Beth Knipp said despite multiple proposals from Cedar Rapids, the market numbers had not changed from when the state commission voted against a single proposal from Cedar Rapids in 2014.

“It has a huge impact on Waterloo because if that got approved we would lose a substantial amount of money — the gaming association and the community,” BHCGA member Geoff Grimes said. “It’s a good day.”

Thursday’s vote reflected the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s concerns a new facility would hurt profits at existing Iowa casinos — particularly those surrounding Iowa’s second-largest city.

The decision came during a meeting in Dubuque, where members discussed the merits of three proposals. Two of the proposals came from Cedar Rapids Development Group. They included a plan for a $196 million Cedar Crossing development on the west side of the Cedar River and a smaller, $106 million casino in downtown Cedar Rapids.

The third proposal from Wild Rose Entertainment would have built a smaller $42 million “boutique” casino downtown.

One of the commissioners voting against a Linn County license, Kristine Kramer, lives in New Hampton in Chickasaw County, one of the counties served by Black Hawk Gaming grants, in addition to Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties.

In September 2016, Eldorado Resorts Inc. of Reno, Nev., announced it would buy St. Louis-area based casino operator Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., including the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo. The Isle also has an Iowa property in Bettendorf.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.