- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The commission that regulates casinos in Iowa plans to meet Thursday in Jefferson to visit the site of a proposed new casino, hear a formal presentation and take public comments.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will gather information and consider whether it wants to allow construction of another casino in Iowa. A decision won’t be made until the commission’s June 12 meeting in Burlington.

If approved, the proposed casino in Jefferson would authorize a gambling license for Grow Greene County Gaming Corp., a nonprofit organization that would contract with Wild Rose Entertainment. The Iowa-based company also operates casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton.

Wild Rose has proposed a $40 million casino resort with restaurants, a conference center and a hotel in Jefferson, a city of about 4,200 people. The casino would include 500 slot machines and 14 table games. It would create more than 270 jobs.

Greene County voters passed a casino referendum in August with 75 percent approval, the highest level of support for an initial casino vote in Iowa.

Wild Rose CEO Tom Timmins said the Jefferson casino is expected to generate about $30 million a year, which would provide $1.5 million for charitable groups in Greene County and surrounding counties.

The five-member gambling commission voted 4-1 in April to deny a license for a $164 million proposed casino in Cedar Rapids after concluding a new casino would take as much as $60 million from existing casinos, primarily those in Riverside, Waterloo, and the tribal casino in Tama.

The same studies suggest the proposed Jefferson casino would take $20 million to $30 million from other casinos, primarily from Prairie Meadows in Altoona and the casino in Emmetsburg.

Timmins said the Cedar Rapids and Jefferson projects are quite different in scale and the amount of money estimated to be taken from existing casino operations.

“I’ve never believed these two projects were the same,” he said. “It’s more than just a casino to Greene County. When you look at the project, one of the things they’re coming forward with is as a regional project.”

He said residents from Calhoun, Carroll and Guthrie counties are expected to speak in favor of the project.

The project calls for an 18,000-square-foot casino and a 71-room hotel to be built on the north city limits of Jefferson at the intersection of Iowa Highway 4 and U.S. Highway 30.

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