DAVENPORT, Iowa — The three casinos in the Quad Cities play a large role in bringing people to the area and in economic development, said Dave Herrell of Visit Quad Cities.

Not only do they attract visitors and overnight stays, the casinos are a benefit to area businesses, Herrell said.

One of the three casinos in the Quad Cities, Rhythm City Casino Resort, is owned by Elite Casino Resorts, the company that will build and operate the Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park.

“Gaming is such a big piece of what we do, and what we’re known for as a market,” said Herrell, who is president and chief executive officer of Visit Quad Cities.

The casinos routinely host events put on by businesses and other local organizations.

In addition, “They all have event space we can go out and sell” to out-of-town organizations in luring events to the Quad Cities, he said.

The opportunity to spend leisure time at gaming tables helps interest organizers of conferences, meetings and conventions.

Visit Quad Cities works closely with the casinos to pursue those opportunities. Because the communities have gaming, “It’s one more thing in our tool belt we can sell,” Herrell said.

The local casinos helped the Quad Cities land the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, which is held every March at Moline, Ill. — one of the Quad Cities.

Sometimes, a city must pay a bid fee to even get “a seat at the table” to pursue such an event, he said. Money from the casinos provided that bid fee.

The casinos are “a huge piece of what we do on the promotional side,” Herrell said. “Our gaming partners are very important.”

Casino money also is invested back into the communities to add to the local quality of life, he said.

Under Iowa law, each casino is required to partner with a nonprofit organization. Rhythm City’s operating partner is the Regional Development Authority.

That nonprofit “is a license holder for the casino license,” said Matt Mendenhall, president and CEO of the Regional Development Authority.

Rhythm City gives a portion of its revenues to the Regional Development Authority, which uses the money to provide grants in the community.

But Rhythm City and Elite Casinos typically go above and beyond their minimum requirement “in terms of benefiting the community,” Mendenhall said. Those grants might go toward housing projects or battling hunger.

Rhythm City occupies “a strong charitable place in the community,” he said.

That arrangement won’t be used in Nebraska. One of the three gambling measures approved by Nebraska voters last November calls for directing an estimated $45.5 million a year in proceeds from the casinos for additional state property tax credits for Nebraskans.

Paul Rumler of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce says Rhythm City is “an amazing corporate citizen here in the Quad Cities area.”

The casino hosts and sponsors a large number of events and programs, Rumler said. Rhythm City is active in a volunteer capacity.

“They’re a pillar in the community,” said Rumler, who is president and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber, which serves eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

Rhythm City general manager Mo Hyder has served on the local chamber’s board of directors, as well as the boards of its affiliated organizations.

“We hold our chamber functions at that location. Their team has been really good to us. But they also host all sorts of other community organizations at their location. They have a great facility there. It’s one that’s very attractive to people. So they make it easy for us,” Rumler said.

“They were good on the COVID protocols and made our team feel safe and secure, and made our guests feel the same way,” he said.

The casino has continued to support downtown Davenport, even though the gaming operation is located out on the edge of the city.

Rhythm City realizes that if it’s going to have a successful business operation, it’s important to have a healthy downtown, Rumler said.

But all three of the Quad Cities’ casinos do a good job, he said.

Hyder said Rhythm City has “a pretty prominent position in this community,” and is involved in community engagement on different fronts.

The casino is engaged with the Chamber of Commerce and the visitors’ bureau, Hyder said.

Because of Rhythm City’s size and scope, the casino feels it needs to be “front and center with those organizations and help them accomplish their goals,” he said. All of them are trying to bring people in, so Rhythm City is “right there with them” in helping them figure out how to do that.

Rhythm City works with local vendors as much as possible. But that requires attention to detail, Hyder said.

The Rhythm City restaurants serve customers fresh seafood, but such an arrangement doesn’t just happen, he said. Work is required to make sure it’s a quality product and that it’s delivered on time.

Dave Taylor of the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. believes the casino at Fonner Park will help economic development in Grand Island.

“I believe it’ll be a positive thing for Grand Island and for economic development,” Taylor said.

The casino will result in increased employment and greater state and local tax revenues, he said.

It also will lead to retail growth and more heads in beds at local hotels, Taylor said.

He also believes the casino will bring Grand Island exposure.

People who come to town to enjoy the casino and amenities will “get to see everything that we have to offer here,” Taylor said.

He doesn’t know if the presence of a casino will help convince businesses to move to Grand Island.

But in giving the city another place to stay and more entertainment, businesses will “know that this is just another way that their employees will be able to enjoy Grand Island.”

The casino also will provide “jobs that we currently don’t have,” Taylor said.

He has heard that the Fonner Park casino will have about 300 employees. From everything he’s heard, those jobs will have good benefits “and some pretty good wages.”

The casino will provide an avenue for a Grand Island family’s second source of income.

If one adult is drawn to Grand Island by a specific job, his or her spouse potentially could get a job at the casino, Taylor said.