Cedar Rapids Finalizes Casino Plans But Iowa Might Prove Uncooperative

Written By Derek Helling on July 14, 2023
riverfront picture of cedar rapids iowa which has just set aside land for a potential casino

Developers of a potential casino in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, might run into a situation familiar for all people as children when one parent gives permission but the other comes in and overrules that decision. In this scenario, the city of Cedar Rapids is the more lenient guardian.

Cedar Rapids has officially set aside land for a casino after a recent city council meeting. However, that could be as far as developer Peninsula Pacific Entertainment is able to go with the project. That company needs to convince the state to get on board, too.

Cedar Rapids finalizes potential casino site

chart showing the distance in miles between cedar rapids iowa and iowa casinosIf a casino does come to Iowa’s second-most populous city, the site of that facility is now certain. According to Rebekah Vaughan of KCRG, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved an agreement with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment on Tuesday.

The site one was once home to a Best Western Motel and the Cooper’s Mill restaurant on F Ave. NW in Cedar Rapids. True to that history, plans by developers include much more than just casino gaming. The developer wants to include dining and live entertainment space as well.

At this point, Peninsula Pacific has not shared any projection for how long it would take to develop the site and open the casino, which would be called Cedar Crossing. Cedar Rapids is an attractive location not just because it is one of just three Iowa cities with a population of at least 100,000, but also because of its proximity to Iowa City, the site of the University of Iowa.

However, work on development will not begin for at least another year regardless of how eager the city is to see the casino come to life. A higher power has effectively overruled city governments in Iowa on the matter of gaming expansion.

Iowa says casino projects have to wait

In June 2022, Iowa established a two-year moratorium on any new casino projects in the state. Thus, the earliest movement toward putting a casino in Cedar Rapids could occur is that same month in 2024.

There’s no guarantee that the end of that moratorium will mean a green light for Peninsula Pacific, though. Iowa’s legislature would have to give its affirmative consent to a new commercial casino anywhere in the state. That’s far from a safe bet.

Part of the reason the moratorium came into effect was lawmakers’ concerns about market saturation. While Cedar Rapids arguably has the population to support its own casino, it’s proximity to other established casinos in Iowa might prove an obstacle for legislators.

There are currently three other casinos within 60 miles of Cedar Rapids.

In order to sway legislators, Peninsula Pacific might have to show it has support from other casino operators in the state or produce research that suggests it won’t have a significant detrimental effect on its competition.

Peninsula Pacific has done all it needed to do in order to convince Cedar Rapids to grant the necessary permissions. Doing the same with members of the Iowa legislature could prove more difficult, though.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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