PGA Tour golfer Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters and 2015 Open Championship winner and an Iowa native, is lending his name and likeness to a casino resort bid targeting Cedar Rapids.
Despite Iowa lawmakers last week passing a two-year moratorium on new casino licenses, a group of community businesspeople are moving forward with an effort to build a $250 million gaming destination on the west side of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids. Johnson, who was born in Iowa City but raised in Cedar Rapids, is supportive of the casino scheme that is being called Cedar Crossing.
The 12-time PGA Tour winner plans to be involved with the casino by way of “The Clubhouse by Zach Johnson,” a sportsbook, taproom, and sports lounge concept.
I am proud to be part of a project that will mean so much to the community through job creation, the revitalization of the downtown area, and for its commitments to the not-for-profit organizations in Cedar Rapids,” Johnson said.
Iowa’s riverboat and land-based casinos are subjected to a graduated tax ranging from 5% to 22%. The final rate is dependent on each property’s total gross gaming revenue. While most of the tax money goes to the state, a small percentage is earmarked for nonprofits in the casino’s host community.
Casino Market Capped
With little notice, Iowa lawmakers last week decided to place a two-year moratorium on allowing the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to issue new gaming permits. Iowa’s commercial gambling act passed in 1994 does not limit the number of casinos that can be authorized.
The state’s 19 casinos have been urging lawmakers to cap the market for many years. Cedar Rapids was denied a casino license in both 2014 and 2017. State gaming regulators rejected bids to allow a casino in Iowa’s second-largest city on concerns that a Cedar Rapids casino would negatively impact gaming operations at Ise Casino Hotel Waterloo some 50 miles north.
The Cedar Rapids Development Group was responsible for the 2014 and 2017 bids, as well as the current one involving Johnson. They say the state has wrongly denied the city a casino and the economic benefits gaming provides.
“It’s time that Cedar Rapidians understand what is truly at stake here. It is certainly entertainment and amenities, and it’s jobs. It is economic development and it is flood protection,” said Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell.
The Cedar Rapids Development Group’s latest casino plan includes incorporating a flood wall. The target site for the Cedar Crossing casino was where the Best Western Cooper Mill hotel sat until it was devastated by flooding in 2016. The hotel was demolished in 2017, and the city has owned the vacant land since.
Cedar Crossing Details
The latest Cedar Rapids casino plan proposes a 160,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment complex with around 1,000 slot machines and 50 table games. The resort blueprint additionally includes a 1,500-seat concert venue and a restaurant from a celebrity chef.
The Cedar Rapids Development Group says its casino would ideally generate a real estate boom on the west side of the river. The casino backers believe the casino would generate as much as $7 million annually for local nonprofits.
But for now, the casino’s near-term fate rests with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R). Her office says the governor is reviewing the two-year casino license moratorium. If she signs the bill, no new Iowa casino licenses will be granted until at least June 1, 2024.
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