DRA awards $1.1 million in grant funding to over 50 area organizations

Gaming revenue down slightly for first half of year

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

Diamond Jo and Q Casino reported a combined $62.5 million in gaming revenue in the first six months of the year, down 1.2% from the same time period last year.

Diamond Jo reported $37.6 million in gaming revenue in the first half of 2023, up slightly from $37.1 million in the first half of 2022. Q Casino generated $24.8 million in gaming revenue from January to June, compared to $26.1 million during the same time period last year.

Both casinos also saw gaming revenue increase for the month of June, up 8% from June 2022 to a combined $10.1 million last month.

Diamond Jo generated $6.3 million in gaming revenue last month, up from $5.7 million in June 2022. Q Casino reported $3.8 million in gaming revenue in June, compared to $3.7 million during the same time period last year.

The nonprofit license holder for Dubuque’s casinos on Tuesday announced about $1.1 million in grant funding to 52 area organizations.

Board members of the DRA approved the core grant funding at their monthly meeting at Q Casino. Core grants represent requests of up to $50,000.

“Today is my favorite board meeting of the year because I do have the opportunity to announce the 2023 grants to the community,” said Kathy Buhr, DRA director of strategic philanthropy and Chaplain Schmitt Island development. “… Thank you to our local organizations for everything you do in the community. It’s very, very hard work you’re doing.”

The DRA received 150 core grant requests this year, with the goal of funding initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining people in the area, as well as promoting local tourism.

Of the 52 grant awardees, 47 were from Iowa, four were from Wisconsin and one from Illinois. Twelve recipients received 100% of their requested grant amount, while 36 organizations received at least 50% of their request.

The $1.1 million total also includes two core grants that were awarded in May to Veterans Freedom Center for Memorial Day events and Dubuque Jaycees for the July 3 fireworks and air show.

The DRA awarded $250,000 in mission grant funding — which includes requests of $50,000 to $500,000 — to three organizations last month, making its total grant contribution to the area this year about $1.3 million.

The grant funding comes from the DRA’s annual distribution, which divides funds evenly among the City of Dubuque, local charities and improvements to Chaplain Schmitt Island.

“We are one of two nonprofit casinos in the nation,” Buhr said. “The money we make here is invested back into the community.”

Buhr also noted that 10 organizations received multi-year awards this year, meaning they do not have to reapply for funding multiple years in a row, as has been the practice historically.

Dubuque’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul was one of those organizations, receiving a $35,000 core grant renewable for up to three years for a Back2Work workforce development program.

Executive Director Rick Merfeld said the program will aid individuals in their goals by helping them find jobs and careers with a livable wage, as well as finding solutions for other work-related challenges some people face, such as transportation and child care.

Merfeld said the organization hopes to start classes for the program by the spring, and officials also hope to find a community partner for a space to hold the classes.

“Over the next 10 years, our goal is to support upwards of 400 area individuals to advance their lifestyles and work history to help them move forward,” he said.

Holly McPherson, East Central Intergovernmental Agency director of development and human resources, said a $50,000 grant awarded to Prosperity Eastern Iowa will develop the Field of Opportunities marketing campaign.

Prosperity Eastern Iowa collected data last year on regional assets of area small communities, she said. Now, officials will use the funding to partner with Travel Dubuque to promote what those towns have to offer, particularly to capitalize on the rising profile of the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville. The grant also will help support scavenger hunts, park and winery tours and bike rental programs.

“We have heard these are the things people want to do when their kids are playing a game and they want to get away for a bit,” McPherson said. “This will attract others from outside the Field of Dreams, as well.”

Judy Wolf, board president of Steeple Square in Dubuque, said a $50,000 grant will be used to enhance staffing, including an individual to help create a stronger marketing presence for the nonprofit and improved staffing consistency.

“We’re not only an event center, but part of our work is to provide educational opportunities for underserved populations,” she said. “Having stronger staffing allows us to expand those opportunities more effectively.”

Mickey Kelchen, president of Dyersville’s Rural Community Food Pantry, said the $30,000 grant the organization received will go toward signage at its new location at 673 Fifth St.

The pantry’s current location doesn’t have space for signage for people to know where the pantry is and when twice-monthly produce days are happening, she said. Any remaining funds will go toward purchasing more food.

Miracle League of Dubuque received a $25,000 grant to go toward new Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible bleachers and shade covers for enhanced seating for families and players watching games.

“When (families) show up, they like to be able to enjoy the game, and the shade and bleachers are huge,” said Merle Santjer, president of the local Miracle League board. “(We are) forever grateful to the (DRA) for their support.”