Originally Posted Online: Jan. 07, 2013, 10:50 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 08, 2013, 12:33 am

Casino developers pitch pros, cons of downtown vs. interstate

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

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Photo: Todd Mizener
Ken Mimmack, President and CEO of Ingenus Management, of Brainerd, Minn., delivers his company's proposal for a land based casino in Davenport in front of one of the casino's design drawings during a public meeting at the River Music Experience in downtown Davenport. Ingenus is proposing building a gaming facilities in downtown Davenport and on the interstate. The other two developers making presentations today are Atrium Holding Company, of Alpharetta, Ga. and Restoration St. Louis, of St. Louis, Mo.

DAVENPORT — One of the three developers seeking to build a land-based casino in Davenport said on Monday that a location near the interstate would "destroy the fabric of the downtown."

Another developer said a casino at the intersection of Interstates 80 and 280 is key to maximizing a casino license and gaming profits for the city.

Location was one of the main criteria a 17-member review panel evaluated on Monday during six-plus hours of presentations and interviews with the three developers that have submitted plans to the city.

The city announced in October it has agreed to buy the Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million. If the deal goes through, the city would move the operation to land.

Restoration St. Louis, of St. Louis, Mo., and Atrium Holding Co., of Alpharetta, Ga., focused their presentations on plans for downtown casinos. Ingenus Management/Consulting, of Brainerd, Minn., wants to build one casino at the interstate intersection and a second, smaller casino downtown.

The review panel includes city officials and council members, members of the Riverboat Development Authority (RDA), which holds the gaming license, the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. (DCIC), the seven-member nonprofit board that will oversee casino operations, and two consultants hired by the city specifically to review the casino projects.

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said afterward the presentations that the panel will try to come up with a recommendation within the next 30 to 60 days to forward to the city council.

"The devil is always in the details," Mayor Gluba said. "It (casino) could be out on the interstate. It could be downtown. We've been told by our bonding people we need to diversify our revenue stream.

"We can't continue to depend upon property taxes to pay all of the bills. We just got a bill from the Adler Theatre. They want $2.5 million next year because of something we agreed to in 2003. "Seven-hundred and fifty thousand dollars of your tax money goes to subsidize the Figge (Art Museum) every year. It's a great place, a great facility. All big corporations say they need places like that to draw their quality employees. "But, you (the public) pick up the tab."
Ingenus proposal Ingenus estimates a $105 million investment in the two-casino project. The total 174,000-square-foot interstate location would include 1,000 gaming machines, a 100-room hotel, three restaurants, a lounge, 100 stalls of covered parking and an 800-space parking lot.

The downtown casino, located next to the RiverCenter on an undeveloped parcel along Second Street. It would have 14,500 square feet of casino and back-of-house space, as well as 14,500 square feet of restaurant and outdoor terrace dining area. The casino would feature 100 to 200 gaming machines as well as several table games.

Ken Mimmack, president of Ingenus, sees casino revenues exceeding $100 million from both locations combined. But, he believes the interstate location is key to bringing in customers. "We believe in the downtown but can't maximize gaming revenue in the downtown alone," Mr. Mimmack said, adding Ingenus has 300 acres to work with near the interstate. He said there is plenty of room for expansion.
Restoration St. Louis plan
Amrit and Amy Gill, owners of Restoration St. Louis (RSL), said their $155 million project would revitalize downtown Davenport. RSL has acquired both the Parker and Putnam Towers in addition to the building linking them (102, 112 and 128 W. 2nd St.), in addition to having the former First Midwest Bank and First Federal Bank properties under contract.

Called City Square Project, RSL would have a 34,500-square-foot main casino, 100-seat restaurant, a deli and three bars/lounges.

Plans also include a 120-room 4-star hotel, buffet restaurant and rooftop sports bar and restaurant. Overall, the entire project includes revitalizing two historic downtown buildings and adding two additional buildings and parking.

"I've heard lots of chatter and talk of how an interstate (location) maximizes revenue," Mr. Gill said. "The reality is the key to success is not being on the interstate."

Mr. Gill said the major portion of gaming revenue will come from the local market share of roughly 500,000 people within a 50-mile radius.

"We think we can build a classy new facility," Mr. Gill said.

Atrium Holding Co. proposal

Atrium Holding Co. vice president Daniel Abernethy proposes converting part of the Radisson Quad-City Plaza in downtown Davenport into a 20,000-square-foot casino with potential to add another 24,000 square feet in casino gaming space.

Mr. Abernethy said the Radisson would go from a 221-room hotel to 180-200 rooms.

The Radisson project would include $35 million in construction costs Atrium covers, $46 million in city-issued bonds, and another $28 million in city costs to pay for gaming equipment and machines.

"The city would lease casino space from us, and we would continue to operate the hotel as a separate business," Mr. Abernethy said.

He said time is money, estimating the casino's first phase could be completed by the end of 2013.

"We believe the expediency of this project is very much favorable to the city," Mr. Abernethy said.

RDA member Betsy Brandsgard, though, questioned the wisdom of losing hotel rooms while trying to expand gaming in downtown Davenport.

Mr. Abernethy said he didn't know if another 100-room hotel would be beneficial to the downtown, saying, "we think the project is beneficial to the inventory that currently exists."

Mr. Malin asked all three developers which project they thought should be selected if their own wasn't. Mr. Abernethy was the only one to give an answer, saying if Atrium's proposal wasn't accepted, he would favor RSL.

"We really believe this project is a great catalyst for growth downtown," he said.

Davenport casino proposals:

The city wants to buy Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million and have a land-based, city-owned casino built.

Three developers, Ingenus Management/Consulting, of Brainerd, Minn.; Restoration St. Louis, of St. Louis, and Atrium Holding Company, Alpharetta, Ga., made presentations Monday.

Estimates of revenue to Davenport.

Ingenus, with both a downtown and interstate casino, estimates revenue at $8.8  million back to the city and $4.9 million to the RDA annually.

RSL estimates $12 million in annual city revenue with its downtown casino and about $3.5 million to the RDA.

Atrium had no firm return numbers, but one Davenport panel member, Gary Buettner, said Atrium's cost figures could mean roughly $4 million in city revenue. 

Mayor Bill Gluba said the city receives about $1.2 million annually from Rhythm City Casino's operations.