Gazette: What Cedar Rapids can learn from Sioux City’s urban casino

SIOUX CITY — As the license for the Argosy riverboat casino was expiring a few years ago, Sioux City officials wanted to renew it but move gambling to downtown, which was undergoing a renaissance but still had pockets of blight and missed opportunities.

Officials saw the riverboat as mostly benefiting itself and drawing only gamblers. But they saw wider economic potential in folding a casino into the fabric of the downtown grid. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the winner among three applicants, wooed the community with promises of concerts, restaurants and tourism, and of lifting up the whole area.

Developers built in the rundown southwest edge of the business district on land between Pearl, Fourth and Third streets. The casino, decorated with signed guitars and memorabilia of rock n’ roll legends Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Michael Jackson and others, opened in August 2014.

“They promised a lot of things, and they came to fruition,” Tom Padgett, who was serving on the City Council at the time, said looking back three years later.

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