Survey: 92% want referendum on Davenport's casino plans


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Originally Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013, 7:49 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 18, 2013, 7:50 pm
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

A survey of Davenport residents last week found 92 percent wanting a referendum vote on the city's plan to buy and operate the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport.

Trish Duffy, president of Personal Marketing Research, of Davenport, said the survey was based on 403 calls Jan. 12 to both traditional and cellphones. But while Ms. Duffy said 92 percent of respondents wanted a referendum, how they would vote on a referendum was "pretty split."

"I think people are confused," she said. The survey had a 3.9 percent margin of error, she said.

Davenport officials are trying to buy Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million.Three developers have submitted plans to build and operate a land-based casino in Davenport if the city's purchase is successful.

Approvals of the city's plan, however, are needed from the Riverboat Development Authority which holds the casino's gambling license and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission which issues it.

In business since 1953, PMR conducted surveys for Deere and Co., Proctor and Gamble, the three Quad-Cities casinos and gambling and gaming operations in Wisconsin and Louisiana, Ms. Duffy said. She addedsome Davenport alderman also have used PMR's services.

The Jan. 12 survey was paid for by seven area business leaders, including RDA Treasurer Don Decker and Mike Duffy, president of Per Mar Security Services headquartered in Davenport.

Ms. Duffy, who is Mr. Duffy's sister, said PMR and Per Mar separated in 1991. Mr. Duffy, an opponent of a city-owned casino, said he wants Davenport residents to have a say on the idea, regardless of where the casino is built.

Mr. Decker said he opposes a city-owned, land-based casino, specifically in downtown Davenport.

According to Ms. Duffy, survey respondents were "split down the middle" on how they would vote on Davenport's planned casino purchase. Eachresponse was more than 40 percent, she said, with 12 percent saying they were unsure of their opinion on the proposal.

Respondents backing the plan said they believed buying the casino would bring new revenues to the city, lower taxes and attract more tourists. They also cited the success of a similar approach in Dubuque.

Opponents to the plan were against city ownership of a casino, Ms. Duffy, or gambling in general.

"There was not a clear 'yes' or 'no'," Ms. Duffy said.

On Thursday, Davenport city administrator Craig Malin said he expects an agreement between the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. -- the city-established board that would oversee the casino's operations -- and the RDA by next month.

On Friday, Mr. Malin and former Jumer's Hotel and Casino chief financial officer Gary Buettner, now a consultant for Davenport's proposal, privately briefed a small group of RDA members on the city's proposal and the needed agreement.

"That agreement revolves around what percentage of revenue will be distributed to the RDA and what revenue guarantees there are," said RDA member Carol Sommer.

Currently, the RDA distributes roughly $2 million annually to charity, nonprofit and civic groups from its share of Rhythm City Casino revenues. At one time, that figure was more than $3 million. But as the casino's revenue declined, so did the funds available for the RDA's grants.

"I think for most of us (RDA members), whether we live in Davenport or Bettendorf, it's a risk assessment thing," Ms. Sommer said.

"Even though we don't vote on which developer or casino site, we are looking at who's paying us and what kind of likelihood of success is behind this," she said."For many of us on the board, we would like to know who (developer) we're dealing with, who's building it and where it's at, and whether it affects the likelihood of success.

"Some (RDA members) believe you can just vote on the agreement, and it's done. The rest of the negotiation goes forward," Ms. Sommer said. "The rest of the group believes we ought to know everything before we decide.

"I can't tell you how that will play out."

Mr. Decker said he wants an RDA vote in the near future. The next RDA meeting has yet to be scheduled, according to RDA President Mary Ellen Chamberlin.


















 



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