BURLINGTON, Iowa -- After months of meetings, studies, and visits to Greene County the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has voted to grant a gaming license to Wild Rose Entertainment for a new $40 million casino complex in Jefferson.
The commission met Thursday morning in Burlington and the vote was the last item on the agenda for the meeting. Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the application for a gaming license. Richard Arnold, Dolores Mertz, and Jeff Lamberti voted in favor. Carl Heinrich and Kristine Kramer voted against.
Before Lamberti cast the deciding vote, he talked about the advantages Polk County has due the casino revenue from Prairie Meadows and said Polk County would be just fine if a new casino license were granted. He also said he was confident in his decision.
Tom Timmons, President and CEO of Wild Rose Entertainment released the following statement Thursday:
"We are very appreciative of the vote today. We know that the commissioners take great care and effort in making these decisions, and we thank each of them for their commitment to the process. Our application was as compelling as any I have ever seen in my 25-plus years in the Iowa gaming industry. We offered the commission all of the things they look for in a license applicant: the integrity of our existing operations, overwhelming local support, regional support from contiguous counties and the preservation of stability in the industry.”
The plan for the casino from Wild Rose Entertainment features a three-story hotel, events center, and 325 new jobs; making the area's second largest employer.
While a majority of residents voted in favor of the new casino, not everyone is ready to roll the dice on this proposal. Iowans can already try their luck at 18 other casinos.
Greene County residents say new casino in Jefferson is what the town has lacked for years. Small business owner, Lori Smith, says without the casino the town would have continued to suffer economically.
"The money from casino will add to our community. It help some of the small town businesses get back on their feet again and improve."
The commission hired two analysts to see if the casino was sustainable. According to that study the casino would generate around $30 million annually but most of that money would be old revenue, meaning other casinos in the area like Prairie Meadows would suffer.
Developers could start construction on the project as early as next week and hope to complete it July 2015.