WATERLOO, Iowa --- Officials with the Black Hawk County Gaming Association fear a Linn County casino would pinch revenues available for community projects here and in surrounding counties.
“We remain vigilant,” commission president and former Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley said of the pending March 5 casino vote in Linn County. “We’re interested, obviously. We think it would have an impact on us, but at this point we’re just letting the process go at its own pace.”
The Black Hawk County Gaming Association, as the nonprofit holder of the state gaming license for the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, receives 5.75 percent of the Isle’s adjusted gross receipts from gambling and distributes those funds quarterly through a competitive grant process to provide property tax relief, fund capital improvements and make charitable contributions.
Hurley said revenue for local projects has increased over the years, but slowly.
“They’re up, but they’re not up by any great magnitude. They’re up by a percent or two. I don’t know how much we draw from Linn County, but that would be an obvious concern.”
The association expects to reap about $5 million in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. That would be a record, but just slightly more than previous years. The Isle began operations in 2007.
“I can understand completely why Linn County would be interested in a gaming operation when you look at our success here — $25 million dollars in grants awarded over five years,” Hurley said.
He said the Black Hawk County Gaming association will not involve itself in the Linn County vote. If the referendum passes, developers still would have to gain state approval for the $80 million to $100 million project.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would conduct a market study and seek comments from existing casinos.
Hurley said “common sense” indicates the eastern Iowa gaming market is close to saturation.
Meanwhile, in Tama County, The Sac and Fox Tribe worries that its Meskwaki Casino would suffer if a casino were to go up near Cedar Rapids.
Tribal Council Chairman Frank Black Cloud said the tribe and the Tama community could lose jobs and business. The Meskwaki Casino has more than 870 employees, including more than 100 tribal members.
Black Cloud said casino profits go toward housing, education and health projects on the Meskwaki settlement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.