Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission applauds success with land-based casinos

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The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission learned that two new land-based casinos are meeting projections and making more money.

Rhythm City Casino reports that business is up nearly 50% since making the move to its new resort in Davenport.  Isle Bettendorf also opened a $60-million land-based casino to rave reviews.

This new era in Iowa gaming comes at a time when competition is getting tougher just across the border in Illinois.

"We've got gaming machines in Illinois," said Commissioner Jeff Lamberti.  "We've got Jumer's. We felt, as a commission, we had to make this change."

One reason why the commission returned to Davenport for its monthly meeting. Some four months into land-based gaming in the Iowa Quad Cities, it likes the early returns.

"To have two operators willing to invest that kind of money in a market that's pretty saturated is really a testament to them," Lamberti continued.

While the move to land had its share of drama, the end result is a better market for customers, casinos and communities.

The financial boost at Rhythm City and Isle will pump more money back to the community under their licensing agreements.

"We're falling right in line with our projections," said Dan Kehl, Elite Casino Resorts CEO.  "As things ramp up and our marketing kicks in, we expect those numbers to climb."

Before the move off the Mississippi River, some 54 community groups divided $900,000 in May.

"We're seeing the whole market rise," said Regional Development Authority Chairman Frank Clark.  "I'm particularly happy to see that because it means no matter what your market share is. it's creating greater dollars for the community."

Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch welcomed the commission back to Davenport for its first meeting in the new resort.

"It's a great entertainment venue, as well as a great community venue, that can bring in new jobs but also more opportunities for the future," he said.

Commissioners have met with Isle's eventual new owners, Reno-based Eldorado Resorts, and expect them to be good operators in Bettendorf.

"It's all moving in the right direction," Lamberti said.  "I expect to see this do even better."

Owner Kehl says that Iowa gaming could take a hit from the sluggish farm economy and abundant video gaming in Illinois businesses.

"They continue to roll them (slot machines) out about every gas station and tavern in the area," Kehl said.  "That's taken the biggest dent out of the market."

Kehl, who also owns Riverside Casino, continues to oppose any possible gaming expansion in Cedar Rapids.

He says it could cut business at Riverside by 40%.

"It causes the existing casinos difficulties in trying to reinvest and bring new products and updates to them," he said.