January 15, 2014


Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission board members are expected to vote June 12 on a proposed Jefferson casino predicted to attract 572,000 visitors annually.

Greene County voters in August approved a gaming referendum with 75 percent support - the highest first-time casino vote margin in the history of the state.

Next, for the project to move forward, the five-member state regulatory panel must grant a gaming license application submitted by the Greene County non-profit associated with West Des Moines-based casino operator Wild Rose Entertainment.

Commission members have scheduled a presentation from Wild Rose and Greene County casino supporters for a March 6 meeting at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona. The June commission meeting will be held at Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington. Regular commission sessions generally start at 8:30 a.m.

Members of the commission are planning a May site visit to Greene County at which point a public hearing will be held.

Wild Rose Jefferson and the nonprofit Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation detailed plans and expected benefits stemming from the casino-and-entertainment complex in a 326-page application with the gaming commission.

The application predicts the $40 million entertainment complex will create 275 positions (filled by more than 325 employees) with an annual payroll of $7 million.

The 18,000-square-foot casino initially will include 525 slot machines and 14 table games with a patron capacity of 1,500 people.

An accompanying Cobblestone Inn & Suites will offer 70 rooms and include an indoor pool and exercise room - the latter outfitted with equipment manufactured by Jefferson-based Power Lift and Conner Athletics Inc.

A connected events center would have capacity for 400 people for sit-down dinners and 800 people for concerts and other events.

The planned sports bar and restaurant - named Coaches Corner - would serve "Americana casual dining" and offer virtual-reality screens allowing patrons to play simulated golf, football, soccer, hockey, dodge ball and basketball. Wild Rose says Coaches Corner would be the first venue in Iowa to offer such advanced simulated play.

An "Iowa Store" will feature native products such as cider from Deal's Orchard and athletic wear from AAI Jefferson.

According to the application, the casino site will involve several lots for development of convenience stores and restaurants.

Wild Rose constructed its two other Iowa casinos - in Emmetburg and Clinton - in about a year. If the gaming commission green-lights the project, Wild Rose says, the Jefferson casino could be operational in the fall of 2015.

The county's largest jobs provider, Greene County Medical Center, employs 275 people, according to the application, meaning the casino complex could be the biggest employer in the county.

The gaming commission is expected to vote April 17 on a proposal for a casino in Cedar Rapids. There are currently 18 state-regulated casinos in Iowa.