Originally Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2013, 6:37 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 29, 2013, 8:54 pm

Wednesday meetings could decide future of Davenport's casino plan

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Three meetings scheduled for Wednesday could determine the future of a proposed land-based casino in Davenport.

The city is attempting to purchase Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million to $51 million.

First on the agenda Wednesday is an 8 a.m. meeting of the Davenport Community Improvement Corp., a city-created nonprofit board that would oversee casino operations if the deal goes through.

The DCIC, created in November, is scheduled to consider an operator's contract with the Riverboat Development Authority, the nonprofit board which holds the casino gaming license used by Rhythm City and which is needed to operate a new land-based casino.

Then, at 11:30 a.m., the RDA will meet and discuss the operator's contract. The RDA board consists of 12 members who distribute money from Rhythm City Casino as grants to nonprofit and civic projects in the Quad-Cities.

The Davenport City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether to enter into negotiations with Ingenus Management/Consulting, of Brainerd, Minn., and Financial District Partners on a casino development agreement.

"I think we have to begin to move forward," said RDA president and DCIC member Mary Ellen Chamberlin. "While the RDA has one agenda, the DCIC has a different agenda.

"The DCIC's agenda is to move this project forward with the city. The RDA's goal is to verify that we have a viable operator so that we can know the terms of the contract can be carried out by the DCIC, who will be getting money from whatever developer is selected.

"In my opinion, both Restoration St. Louis and Ingenus appear to be viable projects with high enough income to satisfy our goals."

The city received three proposals for its land-based casino on Dec. 20. Last week, city casino consultant Gary Buettner, former chief financial officer at Jumer's Hotel and Casino in Rock Island, said Ingenus and Restoration St. Louis, of St. Louis, were being considered.

A third proposal by Atrium Holding Co., of Alpharetta, Ga., did not make final consideration, Mr. Buettner said, in part because of the lack of size of the project.

Although Mr. Buettner said he believed Ingenus would be the best revenue maker of the three projects, with its proposed Interstate 80 and 280 location along with a smaller downtown gaming parlor, the city is still leaving the door open to RSL.

On Wednesday's city council agenda, members could determine whether some other existing downtown property owner "could more cost effectively deliver a small-scale gaming parlor (approximately 10 percent the size of the interstate casino) than the proposed Ingenus/FDP new construction downtown facility."

On Monday, the DCIC voted 4-to-3 with two abstentions to support the Ingenus/Financial District Properties proposal. Ken Mimmack, president and CEO of Ingenus, said Tuesday that Financial District Properties will be involved in financing the $105 million project.

"They've (city) got a lot of steps to do," Mr. Mimmack said. "We want to help them with any due diligence. How available they want us to be, we're trying to respect that."

The Ingenus proposal also calls for a 100-room hotel at the interstate casino site.

"The beauty of the interstate site is there is room for expansion," he said. "We have 300 acres we've optioned. There's a lot of room for future growth."

Amy Gill, chief executive officer of RSL, said she and her husband, Amrit, believe RSL's $155 million downtown proposal is the best casino project for Davenport.

"Of course, we are still interested," Ms. Gill said. "We honestly and truly believe this (project) is best for Davenport.

"They (city council) just have a decision to make. We will back them."

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba has said the city is not ruling out possibly having more than one casino developer/operator.

Davenport casino meetings Wednesday

8 a.m. at River Center South, 136 E. 3rd St., 2nd floor, Colonel Davenport Room - Davenport Community Improvement Corporation (DCIC). Scheduled to consider an operator's agreement between the DCIC and the Riverboat Development Authority.

11:30 a.m. - Woodfire Grill, 131 W. 2nd St., Davenport - Riverboat Development Authority - RDA board will hear presentation from Davenport casino consultant Gary Buettner along with a question and discussion period. RDA attorney Robert Gallagher will present a final draft of the operator's contract to be discussed. May be voted on.

5:30 p.m. - Davenport City Council special meeting - Subject - Motion to direct the council negotiating team on casino developer/operator negotiations to enter into negotiations with Ingenus/Financial District Properties on a development agreement for further council consideration.