Two of the four groups that are seeking new gambling licenses still appear to have questions about their financing plans with just over one week to go before the Racing and Gaming Commission makes a decision on how many licenses to award.
The commission members Tuesday questioned the source of the financing for the proposed Tama casino. John Pavone, the president of Signature Management, the group that has proposed the casino, told the commission they will have the funding.
Commissioners also raised questions about the Wapello County project funding as the entity that is the first line of funding has balked at the background check required by state officials. Ken Mimmack, president of Ingenus Management told the commission they have a back up provider for the financing if needed.
Commissioner Toni Urban also raised the issue with Brent Stevens the C.E.O. of Peninsula Gaming, which hopes to win a gambling license for Fort Dodge.
Urban told Stevens that financing has been our “most sensitive issue today,” and then asked him “Where is the financing?” Stevens says Peninsula is ready to write a check from its own account if the company is not able to secure the financing from investors. A Lyon County official told the commission they have the financing lined up for their project.
Urban also brought up some other issues with the Fort Dodge casino, including several letters the commission had received. Urban says there were a few things that spurred people to write the letters, and one was the blue shirts supporters wear that say “Webster County All In.”
“And I think that they wrote to say we’re not all in, 43% of the population voted against the referendum (on gambling), and I think that a lot of the letters that we received, we wouldn’t have gotten had you chosen a different slogan,” Urban said.
She also addressed concerns that people in Fort Dodge had about the city allowing employees to be paid to lobby for the casino when the commissioners made visit to the proposed site. Urban says she didn’t think anything about it until people wrote to say that city employees that wanted to support the casino were given time off, while those who didn’t were not given time off. And she says those who didn’t support the casino were not allowed on the public street.
Urban says commissioners were “dismayed” that they had spent a lot of money to hire the Innovation Group to do a gambling study and then Peninsula hired the same company for another study that came up with different conclusions than they gave the commission. Urban says the second study by Innovation Group made the company lose its credibility. Urban says all of the Fort Dodge issues were “little things” but they had started to add up.
Commission chair Greg Seyfer says the questions following the public comment period were important, but he would not say if he thought the questions about financial issues would hurt the Tama and Wapello county groups. “We got answers and whether or not those were the answers that the rest of the commissioners were looking for — I guess that’s what we have to decided between now and Thursday,” Seyfer said.
Seyfer would not say if the financing would be the deciding issue for approving new licenses. “I won’t speak for any of the rest, again we have the criteria to look at, and it goes back to July when we talked about (market) saturation, cannibalization, financing, I mean everything is in play,” Seyfer says.
Seyfer says the commissioners will make a decision on each license application individually as they won’t meet as a group again until May 13th when they vote on awarding any new licenses.