Casino survey predicts 'winnable' campaign
Greene County casino advocates eye Aug. 6 referendum on legalized gaming
May 9, 2013
Greene County economic development leaders say the planned casino in Jefferson will be modeled after the Wild Rose Casino & Resorts in Emmetsburg. The Emmetsburg casino opened in 2006 and employs 265 people. The complex includes 70 hotel rooms. The Jefferson project is expected to involve Cobblestone Inn & Suites, which announced plans for a convention center and hotel in Jefferson prior to the casino proposal taking shape.
The Cedar Rapids-based campaign consultant that surveyed Greene County voters in recent weeks says the results are favorable for a proposed casino-and-entertainment complex in the Jefferson area.
"We think we have a very winnable campaign," said Marcia Rogers, a principal with SmartVote, an organization that's been involved with a number of successful gaming referendums in Iowa, including the recent one in Linn County.
The company canvassed the full county and based its results on 400 completed surveys, Rogers said.
"We thought the numbers looked terrific," Rogers said.
With the unanimous endorsement of the Greene County Development Corporation (GCDC) and the Greene County Board of Supervisors, the decision to proceed with the referendum process has begun with an eye on an Aug. 6 vote, said Norm Fandel, president of the GCDC.
The referendum requires a majority vote.
The casino developer and an associated not-for-profit entity would have to obtain licensing from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission in a public process.
Fandel said Greene County officials are working with Wild Rose Entertainment, the West Des Moines casino operator that manages facilities in Clinton and Emmetsburg - the latter which will serve as a model for the Jefferson-area casino.
"I think we have nothing but positive things to gain from moving forward with this project," Fandel said. "Do we want to grow and be progressive or do we want to be stagnant with a dwindling number of residents?"
Casino advocates expect to form an organization called "Grow Greene County" to promote the gaming vote.
The location of the planned casino remains under consideration, Fandel said, adding that it makes sense to locate it near the crossroads of U.S. Highway 30 and Highway 4 to leverage the traffic.
Wild Rose Casino & Resorts opened in Emmetsburg in 2006. It employs nearly 265 people.
"We want to follow and maybe model this after the facility in Emmetsburg," Fandel said.
The Jefferson casino is expected to include complimentary entertainment features, making it a destination complex not only for recreation but business and cultural events as well.
Iowa currently has 18 state-regulated casinos. The closest casino to Jefferson - Prairie Meadows in Altoona, east of Des Moines - is about 75 miles. Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Emmetsburg is 90 miles from Jefferson.
A map of the state's casinos show Jefferson in the middle of an under-served territory for casinos, a factor local development officials say will create a major draw for a gaming-and-entertainment facility in Greene County.
Warren County voters Tuesday defeated a referendum that would have allowed gaming in that county. Wild Rose had planned to develop a casino in Norwalk. Two of Iowa's casinos, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona and Lake Casino Hotel in Osceola are within 30 miles of Norwalk.
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