Originally Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013, 7:56 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 17, 2013, 11:25 pm

Davenport officials expect casino agreements next month

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

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Photo: Paul Colletti
This file photo shows the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport that city officials hope to buy and relocate off the river. Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin on Thursday told the board that would be tasked with the casino's daily operations that the city hopes to have an agreement with the Riverboat Development Authority, which holds the casino's state gambling license, by next month so the two groups can seek the approval of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Davenport's city administrator on Thursday said he hopes to have all agreements in place next month for a land-based, city-owned casino.

Craig Malin said the city plans to take those agreements to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, possibly at its March 7 meeting in Johnston, Iowa, to secure its approval.

The city wants to buy Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri using $46 million in general obligation bonds. Three developers have submitted proposals for land-based casinos.

On Thursdsay, Mr. Malin updated the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. on the process. The DCIC board, which includes Mr. Malin, would oversee casino operations for the city.

Mr. Malin said the DCIC and the Riverboat Development Authority, which holds the gaming license, must agree on the casino's operations. The RDA's 12-member nonprofit board, which holds the casino license, has yet to approve any of Davenport's plans for a new casino.

RDA president Mary Ellen Chamberlin said the ideal situation is for the DCIC and RDA to go to the IRGC seeking an operator's license.Mr. Malin on Thursday acknowledged there are some philosophical differences among two RDA board members regarding "community" ownership of a land-based casino.

"We're still in the process of getting as much information to as many (RDA) board members as we can," Ms. Chamberlin said. "I also don't think, in my wildest dreams, it's (vote) going to be a unanimous decision."

She speculated three RDA members may vote against a gaming license agreement with the DCIC.

RDA treasurer Don Decker and RDA board member Chad Lewis have publicly expressed concerns about a city-owned casino, as well as a possible casino location in downtown Davenport. ContactedThursday, Mr. Decker said he opposes the city's plan because the financial risk is too great.

"I'm still looking for a 'no' vote to take the city out of this package," he said. "As long as the Isle of Capri has this silly $46 million locked in as a guarantee from the city, the Isle of Capri is not going to talk to anybody (potential casino developers).

"I'm asking members of the RDA, do you have the guts enough to vote 'yes' to put the citizens of Davenport at risk for any kind of a loss? Are you willing to do that?" Mr. Decker said. "At this point, I haven't seen nothing from the city that makes me feel any different."

Also on Thursday, Mr. Malin told DCIC members that Gary Buettner, a former chief financial officer of Jumer's Hotel and Casino, has been hired by the city to help a 17-member committee compare three casino proposals.