Neighboring counties to get cut of casino money
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Wild Rose Entertainment and its nonprofit Greene County partner Tuesday announced completion of an agreement that would boost a planned Jefferson casino’s charitable contributions, making an estimated $300,000 available each year for public and charitable projects in neighboring counties.
The West Des Moines-based gaming operator already had committed to contributing 4 percent of its gambling profits — an estimated $1.2 million annually — to Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. for public-minded endeavors within Greene County and among its cities.
The casino expects adjusted gaming revenues of $30 million.
“While this is a Greene County project, the benefits are regional in terms of employment, support for local suppliers and vendors, and new entertainment opportunities,” said Norm Fandel, president of Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. “We believe that as a regional project, we should share the nonprofit benefits regionally and support projects and charities in contiguous counties.”
Wild Rose and Greene County officials made the announcement Tuesday afternoon at the Greene County Courthouse.
Iowa law requires casinos to give at least 3 percent of the adjusted gaming revenues to their partner nonprofits. The state average for such contributions to Iowa’s 18 state-regulated casinos is 4.1 percent.
“What Greene County is proposing is distinct and different and we fully support the effort,” said Tom Timmons, president and chief operating officer for Wild Rose. “This is and has been a community driven project, and we could not be more proud to be part of the excitement.”
In order to distribute the funds to neighboring counties, the Greene County charity plans to accept applications. Charity officials say the money will be awarded on a competitive basis — not based on population or an annual split.
Greene County is bordered by six counties — Carroll, Calhoun, Webster, Boone, Dallas and Guthrie.
“I think this shows a lot of generosity,” said Joe Behrens, local assistance director for Region 12 Council of Governments. “It will definitely be a benefit to the region as a whole.”
On Tuesday, the Greene County nonprofit and Wild Rose also announced the finalization of a cooperative agreement for development of a casino-and-entertainment complex expected to be constructed on the northwest side of the U.S. Highway 30-Highway 4 intersection in Jefferson. Timmons and Fandel signed related documents in the Greene County Supervisors room at the courthouse.
An application for a gaming license is due Jan. 6 with the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission which is expected to vote on the plan in April or May.
This past August, Greene County voters passed a gaming referendum with 75 percent “yes” votes — the highest margin of victory for a casino-introduction referendum in the history of Iowa. Votes to renew licenses for longtime casinos around Iowa have been higher.
The gaming commission will set a Jefferson site visit and public hearing before the final vote.