DRA announces $1.5 million in grants to local organizations

Dubuque casinos’ gaming revenue down

Gaming revenue was down slightly in the first half of the year at both Dubuque casinos.

Diamond Jo Casino and Q Casino reported a combined $63.2 million in gaming revenue in the first six months of the year, down 3.1% from the same time period last year.

Diamond Jo reported $37.2 million in gaming revenue in the first half of 2022, down from $37.6 million in the first half of 2021. Q Casino generated $26.1 million in gaming revenue from January to June, compared to $27.7 million during the same time period last year.

Both casinos also saw a gaming revenue decline for the month of June, down 12.8% from June 2021 to a combined $9.4 million last month.

Diamond Jo generated $5.7 million in gaming revenue last month, down from $6.3 million in June 2021. Q Casino reported $3.7 million in gaming revenue in June, compared to $4.5 million during the same time period last year.

Brian Rakestraw, Q Casino’s chief operations financial officer, pointed to inflation and consumers’ lack of disposable income as a reason for the decline.

“We had a strong first part of the year,” he said. “May and June were not as well, but even with a tough month, I’m happy to report a good month so far in July. We’re rebounding in July.”

Chaplain Schmitt Island plans

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, DRA board members unanimously voted to formalize the Schmitt Island Development Committee, which will focus on a plan for the future of Chaplain Schmitt Island.

“It’s an exciting day,” Alex Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino, said at the meeting. “We will be coming before the (Dubuque) City Council in the coming months as we pursue a number of grant opportunities.”

The nonprofit license holder for Dubuque’s casinos announced Tuesday nearly $1.5 million in grant funding to area organizations.

Officials for the DRA, which legally is called Dubuque Racing Association, announced the grant funding at their monthly board meeting at Q Casino.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Alex Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a day of celebration, and we are not only going to outline how we’re doing but how we are going to move the community forward.”

A total of $1.13 million in core grants, which are requests for up to $50,000, was distributed Tuesday to 59 nonprofits. A total of 157 applicants sought more than $4.5 million in funding.

Two mission grants, which are for requests of $50,000 to $500,000, also were announced, totaling $325,000. The DRA received 66 qualifying mission grant applications totaling $17 million, and more recipients will be announced in the coming months.

The grants are supported by proceeds from Q Casino and Diamond Jo Casino.

DRA leaders in April announced a new structure for their 2022 grant guidelines that encouraged grant applicants to focus on attracting more people to Dubuque.

“In the past, we haven’t had a focus (for grants),” said Kathy Buhr, DRA director of strategic philanthropy and Chaplain Schmitt Island development. “We thought the right thing to do was align with other organizations in town, as well as the city, to focus on population growth.”

Core grants

DRA officials said they are being intentional this year about awarding fewer grants but giving recipients larger amounts of funding.

The DRA last year awarded grants to 93 organizations at an average of $8,960 per grant. The 59 core grant recipients this year received an average of more than $19,000. Twenty-one recipients received 100% of their funding request, and 44 recipients received 50% or more of their request.

“Our expectation is that we’re living up to our values, and a big portion of our values is called equity,” Dixon said. “We’re making sure that, as we go out, we’re impacting the lives of those who need it.”

The Dubuque Museum of Art received $50,000 in core grant funding. That money will be used to further plan for the museum’s future, Executive Director Gary Stoppelman said.

“This is really moving us toward a campaign for building a museum of the future for the community of the future,” he said.

Stoppelman said 95% of the museum currently is devoted to temporary exhibitions. As an example of a possible future option, Stoppelman said he hopes the museum can grow to have a permanent exhibit for students to visit annually as part of their curriculum.

Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens received a $35,000 grant to install new bathrooms at the entrance to the legacy tree trail.

Director Jenna Hirtz said the trail has grown more popular in the past year, and adding bathrooms will keep guests more comfortable.

“We just keep growing and developing that area,” she said. “We’re just so appreciative of the DRA’s relationship and giving back to us over the years. They’ve been a key organization for us to work with to continue more expensive projects that we may not have been able to undertake ourselves.”

Mission grants

DRA officials also distributed two mission grants Tuesday — a $200,000 grant to Dubuque Dream Center toward its efforts to potentially purchase the Fulton Elementary School building, and a $125,000 grant to Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce toward forming a coalition to bring commercial air service back to Dubuque.

Dream Center officials announced earlier this month their intention to apply for up to $3 million in state grant funding to submit a bid to potentially purchase Fulton, which closed at the end of the school year. Dubuque Community Schools officials currently are accepting bids for the property.

Dubuque City Council members previously allocated $300,000 in support of the Dream Center’s plan.

“To the Dream Center, we are all familiar and know this is a unique opportunity to acquire an asset and put it in good public use,” Dixon said. “We know it’s not a done deal, but we want to help.”

The chamber’s grant comes after Dubuque Regional Airport’s only commercial carrier, American Airlines, announced the end of passenger air service to the city on Sept. 7.

“We are a growing, thriving, equitable community where people want to be,” Dixon said. “We have to figure this out. We have to work together.”

Molly Grover, the Dubuque chamber’s president and CEO, said she has begun reaching out to communities across the U.S. to ask them to join a coalition to restore local air service. This includes other communities of Dubuque’s size that have lost air service or had services reduced.

“This is a very timely and a very pressing issue,” she said. “Air service is an economic service that is imperative to the economic prosperity of our community. … We want to be a formidable force, a force that is going to have that united message and go to legislators to let them know this is not acceptable.”