2-year moratorium on new casinos signed into law by Iowa Gov. Reynolds

Pause impacts plans for a new, $250 million casino near downtown Cedar Rapids

The proposed $250 million Cedar Crossing casino, planned for the old Cooper’s Mill site in Cedar Rapids, will be delayed for at least two years, after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill passed in the final hours of this year’s session imposing a two-year moratorium on new casinos in the state. (Peninsula Pacific Entertainment)

DES MOINES — There will be no new casino in Cedar Rapids for at least two years, after Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law a provision that places a two-year moratorium on new casino licenses in Iowa.

That means no new casinos in Iowa — including plans for a potential $250 million, 160,000 square-foot entertainment and cultural arts complex at the site of now-demolished Cooper’s Mill near downtown Cedar Rapids — until June of 2024.

Citing “gambling fatigue,” the Republican-led Iowa Legislature this year approved the two-year moratorium on new casinos, essentially taking action on a matter that traditionally has been conducted by the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission.

The moratorium was inserted into House File 2497, a larger bill on state gambling regulations.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell said she spoke with Reynolds, and the governor understands signing the two-year moratorium into law is “a disappointing decision for me as mayor and for the city.”

“I expressed to her my disappointment and reassured her that Cedar Rapids would still be here when the moratorium is lifted in two years,” O’Donnell said. “She encouraged us to stay the course as she and others pay attention to the gaming industry.”

Whether or not to extend the moratorium once it sunsets in two years is a decision for Iowa lawmakers, O’Donnell said, but it’s Cedar Rapids’ job to ensure the state understands what a benefit it will be to have a casino in Iowa’s second- largest city.

The Cedar Crossing casino proposal calls for bars, restaurants, a 1,500-capacity entertainment center and other venues on F Avenue NW along the west side of the Cedar River, between Kingston Village and Time Check Park. The project would also incorporate a flood wall.

“The city remains committed to bringing this world-class entertainment venue to Cedar Rapids,” O’Donnell said. “Our citizens deserve a place to find a wide range of entertainment options and we know it will spur growth around it. It remains a priority of the city to work alongside the developer to get it done.

This story will be updated.

Comments: (515) 355-1300, erin.murphy@thegazette.com

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