Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2013, 9:52 pm

March 4 meeting planned between 2 groups key to casino plan

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Two groups that can determine the future of a city-owned land-based casino in Davenport are set to meet March 4.

Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin told aldermen at a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Wednesday that members of the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. and theRiverboat Development Authority will sit down at a site yet to be determined four days before the next meeting of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The DCIC was created by the city to oversee operations of a city-owned casino. The RDA holds the state gambling license for Davenport and must approve its use.

Davenport is trying to buy the Rhythm City Casino from its owners, Isle of Capri, for $46 million to $51 million, depending on the location of a future land-based casino.The city needs an operator's agreement between the DCIC and the RDA before proceeding with the plan. The RDA has not voted on whether to give the DCIC permission to use its gaming license.

The IRGC is scheduled to review all Iowa casino licenses at its March 7 meeting.

Davenport officials want to be on the agenda for the IRGC's April 18 meeting; the commission will not meet in May.

Mr. Malin said he hopes to get the IRGC's approval at its June meeting.

The city plans to use general obligation bonds to buy Rhythm City and build a land-based casino and hotel, working with Ingenus Management/Consulting and its financial backers, Financial District Properties.

Ingenus, of Brainerd, Minn., and FTP, headed by managing principal and local developer Rodney Blackwell, has proposed a $105 million project that features a casino and hotel at the intersection of Interstates 80 and 280, as well as a $10 million downtown casino south of the city's River Center on an undeveloped parcel along 2nd Street.

On Wednesday, Mr. Malin told aldermen the city's negotiating team is trying to cut the project's initial costs. He said the city will look at possible downtown options besides Ingenus' proposal, addingthree downtown business owners are interested in pursuing the project.

"There is still interest in a downtown casino for conventioneers, for people that come to conferences and things of that type," Ald. Gene Meeker, At-Large, said after the meeting.

Restoration St. Louis, of St. Louis, which owns the Black Hawk Hotel in downtown Davenport, has proposed a $155 million downtown casino project using existing buildings and new construction along West 2nd Street.

Atrium Holding Co., out of Alpharetta, Ga., also proposed building a casino inside its hotel, the Radisson Quad-City Plaza, in downtown Davenport. Although city officials last month said the Atrium proposal was not being considered, Ald. Meeker on Wednesday said all three proposals still are in the running.

"I think it's a learning process for all of us," he said. "There are different alternatives we're looking at to reduce the risk to the taxpayer.We're just not there yet."