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Rock Island proves casino’s move inland can be good for downtown

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For more than two decades, Davenport's riverboat casino has been an anchor of downtown. As the city prepares for the casino's move to a location off Interstate 80, some residents are understandably worried.

"Daily, I get people coming up to me, saying, 'You know, that thing should be downtown.' But not all things come to those who wait," said Bill Boom, Davenport's Third Ward alderman.

Thursday, though, Rock Island leaders said the move inland could be good for downtown business.

In 2008, Casino Rock Island moved off the Mississippi River and became land-based Jumer's Casino, near Interstate 280. Downtown shop owners said the move hasn't hurt their business -- if anything, it's helped.

"Since the casino left, nothing really changed. It actually has been better in some sense, because there's a lot more parking down here for customers," said Mike King of Hickey Brothers Cigar Store.

"Growth has been amazing the last four years. I have to say, we've been at the top of our game and have shown an increase in sales year after year. So, being downtown Rock Island has been positive with or without the casino," King said.

Renaissance Rock Island President Brian Hollenback said another positive consequence of the move has been newly-built Schwiebert Park.

"The beautiful riverfront, one of the biggest assets that we can capitalize on, has been returned back to the public," Hollenback said.

Hollenback also said that downtown growth has continued, and the new park, new businesses, and new housing are all drawing people to the area instead.

"Typically, if someone's going for gaming purposes, they're going to game. They're more than likely not going to stop by the deli on the way there. They go to the casino, and they leave," said Hollenback.

Rock Island leaders say Jumer's promotes events throughout the city, like local golf courses and downtown festivals. They've actually found that visitors stay in town longer with the new casino.