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Gaming grants paused amid casino shutdown

Gaming grants paused amid casino shutdown

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

WATERLOO — The Black Hawk County Gaming Association is suspending its grant application process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit agency lost its revenue stream March 16 when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all 19 of the state’s casinos closed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

BHCGA executive board members voted Tuesday to put the application process on hold until further notice.

“The threat of COVID-19 has touched every corner of the world, and unfortunately Black Hawk County Gaming is no exception,” the agency said on its website. “We are confident this is a temporary situation, and we look forward to when the world can heal from this virus and the economy can begin again to prosper.”

The association holds the gaming license for the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo and receives 5.75 percent of the adjusted gross receipts to disburse for property tax relief, capital projects and charitable donations in Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Grundy and Tama counties.

Executive Director Beth Knipp said the board was starting its spring grant cycle when the pandemic hit the state and brought gaming operations to a halt.

“We recognize that these are unprecedented times,” she said. “We decided to pause over the next few months and see what happens.”

Not only did the coronavirus shutter casinos, it also wiped out sporting events less than a year after the law changed to legalize sports betting in the state.

Knipp said there may be some value in holding off on new grant awards because the economic and social fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could help guide the grants to be awarded in the future.

“We recognize there will be nonprofit agencies disproportionately impacted by what’s going on in our community now,” she said.

While the BHCGA does not expect to award any new grants for now, Knipp said previously approved grant funds are secure and will be paid out as normal to recipients.

The closing of the casino in Waterloo will also impact revenue received by the city and county governments.

The city of Waterloo receives 1.5% of adjusted gross revenues from the casino, which is more than $1.2 million a year. Black Hawk County gets 0.5% of the adjusted gross revenue.

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