Guy Richardson
Guy Richardson
July 16, 2013



Churdan

Greene County Supervisor Guy Richardson says a map plotting Iowa's existing 18 state-regulated casinos clearly reveals the gaming industry's future development.

"It's a pretty sure thing that there will be a casino someplace in this area - Boone County or Carroll County or Greene County," Richardson said.

Greene County voters head to the polls Aug. 6 to determine whether to legalize gaming, the first step toward development of casino in Jefferson with West Des Moines-based Wild Rose Entertainment.

Richardson said Greene County voters should not balk at the opportunity to land a gaming-and-entertainment complex that will provide more than 250 jobs, an annual payroll of $6.5 million to $7 million and over $2 million each year to county non-profit organizations and local tax coffers.

"It defies common sense to look at this and pass up all of the good things that can happen in our county," Richardson said.

He added, "It's lots and lots of money, ladies and gentlemen. It's millions of dollars in just a few years."

Richardson, a member of the pro-casino advocacy group Grow Greene County, helped present the case for the Wild Rose development during a town-hall meeting Monday night in Churdan. About 30 people attended the session.

Wild Rose vice president of operations Tom Timmons stressed that his company's plans in Jefferson are to replicate the Wild Rose casino experience in Emmetsburg - a facility that has been open since 2006.

Timmons said about 70 percent of the casino customers come from between 15 miles and 60 miles outside of Emmetburg, with about 20 percent coming from within the county.

Total casino patron count in Emmetsburg is about 10,000 people a week - and this doesn't include customers who come to Wild Rose for lodging, dining and other forms of entertainment, but don't step foot on the casino floor.

In recent days, for example, Wild Rose has hosted the musical talent of America, Gretchen Wilson and John Michael Montgomery.

"This is not just a casino, but a banquet hall, tourist shop, campgrounds and hotel which will host events," said Peg Raney, a member of Grow Greene County and former Jefferson Chamber of Commerce director.

Wild Rose plans to develop the casino in conjunction with a 72-room Cobblestone Inn & Suites. Some Jefferson events - from concerts to conferences - may be so large that area communities receive spillover hotel bookings, Raney said.

"Can you imagine sending people to Carroll for a hotel because something is happening in Jefferson," Raney said.

Raney stressed Jefferson's position in an under-served area. The closest state-regulated casinos are in Emmetsburg (90 miles), Altoona (75 miles) and Council Bluffs (127 miles).

Jefferson is better-positioned as a regional draw for a casino than Carroll, Raney said, noting that the 60-mile radius around the Greene County seat has a population of 194,000 people - as Ames and parts of the Des Moines suburbs are captured. The City of Carroll's 60-mile radius includes 145,000 people.

Greene County also has about 90,000 more people in its 60-mile radius than Emmetburg, which has 105,000 in its region - and a successful casino, Raney said.

Wild Rose will capitalize on its position at the nexus of Highway 4 and Highway 30 in Jefferson, she added.

"If you are trying to get on it (Highway 30) going to an Iowa State football game, you know exactly what I mean," Raney said.