Originally Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2012, 9:09 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 15, 2012, 11:45 pm

Iowa commission updated on casino plans

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

JOHNSTON, IOWA -- Membersof the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission were updated Thursday morning on Davenport's planned purchase of the Rhythm City Casino

In what Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba termed a "non-eventful event," IRGC members received a two-minute presentation from Michael Fries, vice president of legal affairs for Isle of Capri, which owns the Rhythm City Casino. Davenport plans to pay Isle $46 million for Rhythm City.

"We have agreed on the term sheet with the city," Mr. Fries said. "The city has been busy doing what it needs to be doing to position itself to make this acquisition."

The IRGC had no questions for Mr. Fries, Mayor Gluba or other local officials at the meeting: Davenport Alds. Bill Boom, Jeff Justin and Gene Meeker,city administrator Craig Malin and Riverboat Development Authority Director Mary Ellen Chamberlain.

Mayor Gluba saw that as a positive sign.

"The commission could say, 'You can't do this,'" he said. "They could say it doesn't meet state requirements, is outside the scope of authority, etc., etc. We had all those questions prepared to answer for them in a very detailed legal opinion from our private counselor.

"Two, they could have talked negatively," he said. "They could have had all kinds of questions but, at this point, they didn't.

"So what I take from this is that they're saying, 'Go ahead and proceed.Work your deal out with the Isle of Capri, and come back and see us when you're a littler further along,' which I see as a big plus," Mayor Gluba said.

Mr. Malin said about a dozen developers have contacted the city about the project. Before Thursday's meeting, he and city officials met with IRGC members to provide them with a package outlining what the city's attorneys have done so far and PowerPoint documents Mr. Malin has laid out during city council, RDA and public hearings.

"Open communication with the racing and gaming commission is key," Ald. Justin said.

In a letter prepared for the IRGC, Mayor Gluba stated Davenport's fiscal strength and "visionary city council" would allow the city to move forward with a creative resolution "that will break the riverboat casino log jam in Eastern Iowa and will, undoubtedly, result in two riverboat casinos being upgraded to land-based facilities."

"Obviously, we think when we give $46 million to purchase the Rhythm City, the Isle of Capri Corp. will probably take that and plunk it down, building a land-based facility in Bettendorf," Mayor Gluba said Thursday."We fully expect them to do that."

The RDA holds the Rhythm City Casino's license and uses casino revenues to annually issue about $2 million in grants to community organizations and projects.Mr. Malin has estimated a land-based, city-owned casino could nearly double the amount available for RDA grants.

The RDA also must approve any city proposal for a land-based casino, as well as the use of its license. Ms. Chamberlain said RDA board members still have some questions about the project.

"We have a ways to go," she said. "When we're ready, and we know a little bit more of what we're looking at, then I think the board will sit down and vote on it."

With the RDA's support, Davenport plans to seek IRGC approval of the project in March.

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