DRA rolls out new branding, change in charitable grant distributions

March gaming revenue

Dubuque’s casinos reported a decrease in gaming revenue last month compared to the same period last year. 

Diamond Jo Casino and Q Casino reported a combined $11.6 million in gaming revenue in March, down 4.6% from $12.2 million reported in March 2021. 

Diamond Jo reported more than $6.9 million in gaming revenue last month. In March 2021, gaming revenue was just under $6.9 million. 

Q Casino generated $4.7 million in March, down from $5.3 million in the same period the previous year. 

The nonprofit license holder for both Dubuque casinos has announced a new brand and vision, including for its annual distribution of community grants.

The DRA — which publicly will be known as DRA but legally still will be Dubuque Racing Association — kicked off its annual grant campaign Tuesday evening, announcing a new structure for its 2022 grant guidelines with a strong focus on attracting people to Dubuque. About 200 people attended the kickoff event at Diamond Jo Casino.

“We need to attract more people, raise people out of poverty and be able to reinvest in the hospitality aspects of the community,” Alex Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino, told the Telegraph Herald ahead of Tuesday’s announcement. “We can be a catalyst for the community.”

The DRA plans to distribute $2.9 million in grants to community nonprofits this year, compared to $1 million distributed last year.

Dixon said that in awarding grants, the DRA will prioritize ideas local nonprofits have that can address community needs such as workforce and child care.

He also noted that Q Casino and Diamond Jo Casino both are dedicated to the new mission, even though they compete for customers.

“I’m a third-generation casino employee,” Dixon said. “And everyone I talk to is amazed that we are a nonprofit casino. I can’t underscore how unique that is, even in the core gaming industry, how we can help propel the community forward.”

As part of the DRA’s focus on community building, $1.7 million of available grant funds will go toward “mission grants,” said Kathy Buhr, DRA director of strategic philanthropy and Chaplain Schmitt Island development.

Those grants will focus on ways to attract people to Dubuque through growing the population, meeting community needs and attracting tourism. Mission grant applications will be open June 27 to July 15 for requests of $50,000 to $500,000.

Dixon said these types of grants could go toward areas such as funding an intern position to expose people to a new line of work or investing in child care offerings.

“We anticipate funding the same organizations in a different manner,” he said.

Requests for DRA grants similar to those awarded in previous years still will be accepted through a “core grants” program. Buhr said $1.2 million will be available for core grants, and applications for projects under $50,000 will be open May 1 to 20.

“We don’t anticipate all of the requests to be capacity grants,” Buhr said. “Those other requests will still be accepted. The goal is for organizations to start thinking in a way they haven’t thought before.”

The increase in available grant funds stems from high profits Q Casino saw in 2021. DRA’s new lease agreement with the City of Dubuque splits the organization’s annual distribution evenly among the city, local charities and improvements to Chaplain Schmidt Island. DRA leases the Q Casino facility from the city.

While high profits helped increase the amount available for grants this year, Dixon said it should not be assumed that the funds always will be at that level going forward.

“We will stay consistent throughout, and we’re good stewards of our resources and will make the right investments,” he said. “But for the next two or three years, we shouldn’t bank on this.”

Buhr said the DRA plans to have at least $1 million available in core grants and enough to fund one $50,000-plus project every year going forward.

The DRA was formed in 1985 with an initial focus on bringing greyhound racing to Dubuque to bring in new jobs and attract people to the community.

With the final racing season at Iowa Greyhound Park ending on May 15, DRA officials want to outline a new area of focus.

“In the mid ’80s, (the DRA was) created because we were on defense and we needed to turn the tides,” Dixon said. “We now have the opportunity to go on offense, and the things we do on offense look different. … This campaign is the engine that can help propel us.”

Part of that new look comes with a new logo and website, dradubuque.com, that outlines the DRA’s mission and the grant application process.

Dubuque Mayor Brad Cavanagh said at Tuesday’s event that the DRA’s mission falls in line with that of the city — to better the Dubuque community and improve residents’ experience.

“To truly achieve that community vision, we need to recognize the moments when it’s time to hit the gas,” he said. “… Right now is one of those moments.”

Wendy Runde, vice president and general manager of Diamond Jo, said the DRA has been addressing challenges and creating opportunities for the area for decades.

“In all my days, I’ve never seen a campaign kickoff like this,” she said. “… The DRA continues to improve the quality of life for Dubuque residents.”

Following the presentation, Julie Raymond, president of Dubuque Area Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse, said she was excited by the new grant opportunity and process.

“We know they’re trying to build the community, and our program is focused on resilience, too,” she said.