The deadline for the non-profit group and operator to settle on an agreement to run the Argosy Riverboat Casino in Sioux City is now one month away. The Racing and Gaming Commission approved a new one year agreement for the non-profit Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD) and casino operator Penn National Gaming.
Penn National told the comission they wanted a longer agreement and so far have not signed the one-year deal. Racing and Gaming Commission administrator, Brian Ohorilko, says Penn has until the commission meeting August 23rd to sign the agreement.
“The law requires a nonprofit and an operator to enter into an operating agreement in order to conduct casino gambling in Iowa,” Ohorilko says. “So at that point in time, they would be in violation of the law if there wasn’t an agreement in place.” Ohorilko says he is not sure what the commission would do if Penn decides not to sign the agreement.
“This is sort of unprecedented where we’ve been this close to a deadline where both a nonprofit and an operator have been unable to reach an agreement,” Ohorilko says. Iowa law says both organizations must be on board to run a casino.
“There are two licenses. The nonprofit holds the license to conduct gambling games, the operator holds the license to conduct the excursion boat or gambling structure,” Ohorilko explains. “One really can’t perform without the other, so that’s why the statute requires that both parties come together with an operating agreement.”
The fight between the nonprofit and operator has gone on for months and the commission finally decided to take applications from outside parties for to operate a new land-based casino that would replace the riverboat in Sioux City. Ohorilko says this is an all or nothing proposition for the MRHD (merd) and Penn National if they want to keep the riverboat operating until the new land-based casino is ready.
“One party couldn’t just pick another, the commission would need to approve a license for either an operator or a nonprofit. And part of that is going through the due diligence, where the commission would ask the DCI to report back to them and ensure the parties operating in Iowa are of good conduct and good character,” according to Ohorilko.
The MRHD board met and voted to continue trying to get Penn National to agree to the new agreement. That board also voted to move ahead with trying to secure a license for the new land-based casino. The Racing and Gaming Commission members have said they would work with both sides to keep the riverboat casino operating until the land-based casino is ready to take over.