The Wild Rose Jefferson casino threw open its doors Monday, or rather it cracked them open just wide enough for a few lucky media and community leaders to catch a glimpse of the interior of the $40 million gaming and entertainment complex as it nears completion.
The media event, coming almost one year to the day after the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission granted a license for the Jefferson casino, began when Wild Rose Jefferson General Manager Mike Couch briefed reporters on the progress of construction, introduced the now-complete management team and announced a second job fair for June 27.
Couch was followed by Marketing Director Aaron Harn, who described plans for the August 7-8 grand opening, including a fireworks show and a Grammy Award-winning headliner, whose name Harn kept secret.
“I can’t reveal many details until July 1,” the Waterloo native Harn said, “but I can say this is a Grammy Award-winning artist with cross appeal in rock and roll and country. We are working to make this a very special event for the community and the region. The people here were key to getting the license and making this project happen.”
With the media intrigued, it was time to see the casino floor.
Safely cordoned off from the hard-hat area where construction continues, reporters from around central Iowa absorbed the atmosphere of the spacious 1,800-square-foot gaming room, where thick carpeting is laid and the electronic slot machines already whirl and blink, awaiting testing by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
The casino will offer 525 games, including old favorites, such as Buffalo Stampede and Quick Hits, and some new names, such as Dungeons and Dragons, Colossal Diamonds, Sphinx 3D and Ellen. There will be 14 live tables for card players and a high-limit room for more serious gamesters.
“We’ve designed the casino with high energy and fun in mind,” Couch said. “The colors, textures, features, games and restaurant are all first class and designed with guest experience and comfort in mind.”
Wild Rose Jefferson expects to employ about 250 people when fully staffed, with an estimated annual payroll of $7 million. At present, Couch said, only about 40 percent of the hiring is complete, meaning about 150 positions remain to be filled.
Openings include positions for full- and part-time dealers, table guest supervisors, food and beverage supervisors and attendants, banquet bartenders and servers, guest services, part-time housekeeping and security.
A second job fair has been scheduled for June 27, and interested applicants can inquire at any time at Wild Rose Jefferson’s temporary offices at 300 Microsoy Dr. in Jefferson. Contact Kristie Michaelis at 515-386-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the building is beautiful on the inside, Chuck Offenburger, Greene County resident and vocal backer of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s licensure of Wild Rose Jefferson, risked muddying his trademark two-tone Oxfords in order to survey the equally fine exterior at Monday’s media day event.
The green, taupe and tan facade of the Wild Rose Jefferson is about half-complete. Heavy spring rainfall has slowed the laying of some sewer lines and paving of the parking lot, but Couch said the delays were expected, and the time can be made up.
Concerns about competition among Iowa’s casinos were a factor in the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s close decision to grant the Jefferson license, and some evidence their concerns were justified has already appeared in a conspicuous place: a billboard just south of the Wild Rose Jefferson on Iowa Highway 4.
In an effort to protect its share of the gaming market, Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola purchased billboard space a quarter-mile south of the new Jefferson casino on Iowa Highway 4. “So the grass wasn’t greener?” the billboard reads. “Come win it back! Lakeside.”
Couch said he is confident consumers will choose to stay in Greene County.
“In the end, people are going to decide where they like to play the best,” he said, “and we certainly hope it will be here, billboard or not. We’ve definitely got a lot more going for us than what they put up on their board.”