Davenport OKs casino talks with Ingenus; options still considered

Originally Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2013, 10:43 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 31, 2013, 9:37 am
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Davenport officials have decided to pursue a two-casino plan for the city.

City officials have proposed buying the Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million to $51 million and moving it from the Mississippi River to an undetermined land location.

In a 10-0 vote, the Davenport City Council on Wednesday night approved starting negotiations on a casino development agreement with Ingenus Management Consulting and Financial District Properties.

The city's negotiating team, led by Ald. Gene Meeker, At-Large, includes Mayor Bill Gluba; Alds. Jeff Justin, 6th Ward, and Bill Boom, 3rd Ward; city attorney Tom Warner; and city administrator Craig Malin.

Ingenus, out of Brainerd, Minn., and FTP, headed by managing principal Rodney Blackwell, proposes to build a hotel/casino at the confluence of Interstates 80 and 280 with 174,000 square feet of casino, hotel, restaurant and back-of-house space. Theyalso propose a second, smaller casino next to the River Center on an undeveloped parcel, owned by the city, along Second Street south.

In total, the development is estimated to cost $105 million.Last week, the city's casino consultant Gary Buettner said he thought the Ingenus proposal would give the city the most bang for its buck.

Wednesday's motion, however, also left the door open for Restoration St. Louis (RSL) to offer a revamped proposal of its own.

RSL had proposed a $155 million downtown casino/hotel. The project would have revitalized two historic sites -- the Parker and Putnam buildings -- while adding two more buildings and parking in an area bounded by Brady Street on the south and Second and Third streets on the north.

Earlier on Wednesday, city officials met representatives of RSL. Mayor Gluba said RSL officials were excited about possibly still being in the picture.

"Quite frankly, I asked them to go back and crunch their numbers," Mayor Gluba said. "If they want to be in this, they need to massage their numbers.

"There are no absolutes here."

The city also plans to solicit competitive financial agreements with local financial institutions, Mayor Gluba said, adding the city may not issue general obligation bonds for the project.

"Both of these companies (Ingenus and RSL) said they could do this on borrowed money from banks," he said.

"We could get one of the union groups to use their pension fund money (to finance) as they do in Vegas," Mayor Gluba said. "Bonding may or may not come into play. Another possibility is to go to local banks and see if they want to do a national consortium.

Union members in the audience on Wednesday supported the Ingenus project.Marshall Douglas, treasurer of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, said RSL wouldn't commit to hiring local people.

"We need jobs," Mr. Douglas said. "The interstate (casino) would provide that. You're putting in sewer, water, gas lines, electrical, streets -- that means jobs. It keeps the cycle going for the building trades."

Quad-City Federation of Labor President Dino Leone said good-paying jobs help filter more money into the local economy versus someone hired from outside the community.

Mayor Gluba also said on Wednesday night the proposal has a long way to go, noting the Riverboat Development Authority -- which holds the state gambling license in Davenport -- took no vote on an operator's contract at its meeting Wednesday.

"We're not going to get everyone to vote for it," Mayor Gluba said. "Some people on the RDA are totally philosophically against it. You're never going to convince them; that's the way it is."

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