Casinos Fund Scholarships at Western Iowa Colleges

Missouri River Historical Development, a nonprofit entity that holds the gaming license for Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, gave $300,000 total to four Iowa colleges.
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  • Four western Iowa colleges received a collective $75,000 each in scholarship funding from Missouri River Historical Development.
  • MRHD is a nonprofit that holds the gaming license in Woodbury County and generates funding via an agreement with the Sioux City Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
  • The nonprofit sends millions in grants toward local organizations every year and has long funded scholarships at Woodbury County's colleges.
  • The scholarships are $2,500 per semester, or $5,000 for one academic year.

Gaming continues to be a key source of scholarship funding for several western Iowa colleges in 2023, with four schools again getting a collective $300,000 in scholarship funding for their students.

Briar Cliff University, Morningside University, St. Luke's College of Nursing, and Western Iowa Tech Community College each received $75,000 in scholarship funds in the latest round of grants from Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD). Each of those colleges are located in Woodbury County, where Sioux City is in far western Iowa.

MRHD's grants come from a unique funding mechanism: The nonprofit holds the gambling license for Woodbury County, and its revenue is generated as part of an agreement with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City.

Students who attend high school in Woodbury County are eligible for the scholarships, according to a release sent to BestColleges News from MRHD.

The scholarships are $2,500 per semester, or $5,000 for one academic year. The renewed scholarship funding was first reported by KMEG.

While the scholarships "encourage students to study, work and live in Woodbury County," remaining in the county isn't a requirement for the scholarships.

"MRHD is excited to partner with Hard Rock to make grants available through all colleges in Woodbury County," Missouri River Historical Development President Steve Huisenga said in a release. "Our hope is to lessen the financial burden faced by students and allow them to focus on academics."

Missouri River Historical Development has sent $300,000 in yearly scholarship funding to the four Woodbury County colleges since 2019. Those grants totaled $250,000 in 2017 and 2018, and included "lower amounts in previous years," according to the release.

MRHD began its annual grant program in 1994 and has since awarded more than 2,000 grants, averaging a total of $2 million annually for a broad range of services in Woodbury County, according to the nonprofit's website.

MRHD formed after voters approved a gaming referendum in 1989. Similar referendums in 2002 and 2010 each passed with more than 75% of the vote, according to the MRHD website.