Iowa- Victory is sweet for Mayor Bill Poch of Riverside,
a winner in Iowa's gambling license sweepstakes.
city will reap millions of tax dollars from the glitzy
$107 million Washington County Casino & Golf Resort,
which is expected to open in early 2007.
have to search hard to find anybody who is negative about
it," Poch said.
people are leaping for joy, though, in Kalona, a country
town six miles west of here where it's common to see horse-drawn
carriages with Amish farmers on the road. Many in Kalona
opposed the casino plans before last week's approval by
the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
not exactly happy, because gambling can be a waste of
money and we are not sure how it can better our community,"
said Betty Engel, who owns a natural foods store in Kalona.
"But we want to think positive about it now. It could
bring a lot of tourists in."
reactions to news that Riverside won a casino license
aren't all that surprising. Washington County voters were
fairly evenly divided last year on a referendum to authorize
casino gambling. The proposal was approved by a 52-48
feelings are being expressed in Wapello County, where
not everyone was disappointed with the state's rejection
of a proposed $40 million riverboat casino in Ottumwa.
Wapello County voters had favored casino gambling by a
54-46 margin in an October 2003 election.
regulators awarded licenses last week for casino projects
in Waterloo, Emmetsburg and Worth County, as well. The
commission denied casino license requests from Fort Dodge,
Franklin County and competing bids from Waterloo and Emmetsburg.
In Riverside, a community of 928 people south of Iowa
City, Mayor Poch is only thinking positive in the aftermath
of last week's events.
gives a thumbs-up as he talks about the 850 jobs that
will be created by his town's riverboat casino and championship
golf course. The city will net nearly $2 million a year
from the resort complex, more than double the city's existing
budget of $900,000.
launching of the casino boat along the Iowa River should
help revitalize Riverside's mostly boarded-up business
district, Poch said. He's hoping to attract shops selling
ceramics, silversmith items, leather goods and antiques
to some of the 1.5 million gamblers who are annually expected
to visit the casino complex.
also envisions a plan to capitalize on the city's claim
to be the future birthplace of Star Trek Capt. James T.
Kirk. One of the possibilities is a Star Trek museum.
University of Iowa football weekends, it's going to be
wild around here," Poch said. "There is no way
we aren't going to get several thousand people coming
here. They'll come to the hotel on Friday night and do
some gambling and I would imagine there would be tour
buses to bring them back on Saturday evening to continue
Riverside casino will be owned 50 percent by local investors,
43.75 percent by Iowa's Catfish Bend Casino, and 6.25
percent by Kehl Management. The casino complex will be
built on Iowa Highway 22, about 11/2 miles east of U.S.
Wapello County, Ottumwa community leaders were unhappy
the riverboat casino proposed by Wild Rose Entertainment
did not receive one of the coveted gambling licenses.
The Wild Rose application received two votes from the
five-member Racing and Gaming Commission, one short of
County Supervisor Steve Siegel said after the commission's
action he was trying to determine how to sway one more
commissioner before a moratorium on additional licenses
is considered in July.
Saturday, Gov. Tom Vilsack said he wants gaming commissioners
to reconsider Ottumwa. Commissioners balked, but Vilsack
said Ottumwa was in need of a boost and "people relied
on (the casino license) to push them through."
economy here is very bad," Short said. "We have
too many McDonald's and Wal-Mart jobs and those that aren't
in Riverside, the future looks bright, predicted Dan Kehl,
chief executive officer of the Washington County Casino
& Golf Resort.
plans include 1,100 slot machines, 30 table games, a 200-room
hotel, a 1,200-seat showroom, a recreational-vehicle park
and an 18-hole golf course designed by Rees Jones Inc.
The complex, which is now farmland, is expected to generate
annual gross gambling revenues of between $85 million
and $92 million.
Laroche, who manages Riverside Grain and Feed Co., said
the casino won't have much impact on his business, because
he deals almost strictly with farmers.
overall for the town, it's definitely going to bring in
a lot more money," Laroche said. "We have lost
some businesses in Washington County and we definitely