DRA awards $685,000 in grants to area organizations

Gaming revenues

The DRA reported a slight decrease in gaming revenue at Dubuque’s casinos in September.

Diamond Jo Casino and Q Casino reported a combined $10.34 million in gaming revenue in September, down 3.4% from the September 2021 total of $10.7 million.

Diamond Jo reported $6.04 million in gaming revenue in September, down from $6.35 million in September 2021. Q Casino generated $4.3 million in gaming revenue last month, compared to $4.35 million during the same time period last year.

“We’ve had a great year,” said Brian Rakestraw, Q Casino chief operations financial officer. “October is also looking very well. As I mention to Alex (Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino and the DRA) all the time, if Mother Nature holds out, we should finish very strong.”

The nonprofit license holder for Dubuque’s casinos is awarding a total of $685,000 in grants to five area projects.

Board members of the DRA voted unanimously to approve the funding at their monthly meeting Tuesday at Q Casino. The money represents the remainder of the organization’s funds for mission grants, which address requests of $50,000 to $500,000.

In total this year, the DRA has given $3.13 million in awards to recipients of both core grants — requests of up to $50,000 — and mission grants.

“These are the exact type of initiatives we wanted to be able to support in what we call our mission,” said Alex Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino and the DRA. “We appreciate you, and we set high expectations. … Go forth and be great.”

The largest grant given out Tuesday was for a joint request from three Dubuque colleges — Clarke University, Loras College and University of Dubuque. The institutions were awarded $200,000 for the Dubuque Promise Program.

The program will establish a “last-dollar” scholarship fund to grant local students up to $5,000 per year for up to four years of full-time study. Students who receive the funds must agree to live and work in Dubuque County after graduation for the length of time they received the funding.

Clarke President Thom Chesney said the three institutions still have some details to work out on the program, but he believes the scholarships should be available for incoming and current local students for the 2023-2024 school year. He noted that the initial focus will be on students from Dubuque County. 

“A big topic right now in this area is growing workforce and the education for that,” he said. “This is one means we believe will do that. And it’s not going to happen for an individual institution creating a scholarship program. We have got to be partners in this.”

Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA received $160,000 to go toward its effort to construct a new facility.

Dubuque Y CEO Tony Calabrese said the organization is “close” to securing a new location and hopefully will be able to announce the site soon, as well as a timeline for the project. He noted that the process of finding a new location began before the COVID-19 pandemic, though the pandemic halted plans for a time.

“We’ve been here since 1866,” he said. “A strong community has a strong YMCA, and that’s what we’re after.”

Crescent Community Health Center received a $125,000 grant that will go toward a new wellness center that will serve everyone in the community — not just Crescent patients.

Crescent CEO Gary Collins said the wellness center will be located in an existing building at 15th and Elm streets, near the center’s current 1690 Elm St. location. He said the wellness center hopefully will be up and running by spring.

“It opens us up more broadly for services in the community, in particular for the surrounding area (around the center),” he said. “Many of them don’t have vehicles to drive, so they ride a bike and walk to us. It’s a high pedestrian area. It makes (the wellness center) perfect for this community.”

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dubuque received $100,000 to pay for upgrades to its arts and crafts room.

Executive Director Tom Sullivan said the organization will implement STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — programming into children’s daily structure, as well as update technology for kids to use.

“We think this will really let our members engage in critical thinking through pottery, drawing, painting and engineering,” he said. “Overall brain health is what kids need today. Let us provide that for them. This is something they would not get anywhere else outside of school.”

Another $100,000 was awarded to Hills & Dales for its efforts to construct a state-of-the-art facility for autism services.

The organization previously announced that it had acquired the building at 1660 Embassy West Drive for the $3.1 million project, which will consolidate the services provided by Hills & Dales’ two Dubuque autism clinics.

“We’ve seen our referrals just have really grown over the years,” said Hills & Dales CEO Jack Mescher at Tuesday’s DRA meeting. “(The DRA) being a flagship investor in this infrastructure is profoundly impactful, and we’re so grateful for that.”