Local supporters of the state-licensed casinos in Davenport and Osceola asked the Racing and Gaming Commission today to approve temporary license renewals for the operators in an effort to force both to make upgrades to their facilities.
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba told the commission that all elected city officials are in favor of pulling the license of the Isle of Capri because the casino has not made good on a 2005 development agreement to move the casino off its boat.
Gluba says more than five years have passed and the company has not begun construction or submitted plans for review. He says there has not been any increase in tourism, revenue or jobs, and he says they in fact has lost tourists, revenue and jobs.
Gluba says other casinos in the state have converted to land-based operations, and there’s a new casino across the river in Illinois that is now competing with them. “We’re tired of being treated like an after thought, or a loss leader,” Gluba says, “we’re tired of losing revenue, losing tourists, and losing jobs to Illinois.”
The city has identified a developer they want to build a casino and hotel on land. A spokesperson for the non-profit group that holds the license said she is concerned a conditional license would cause too many concerns for the casino employees.
Isle of Capri vice president Ed Quatmann, also said he is concerned about the impact a conditional license would have on employees. Quatmann says the company is trying to work with the city. Quatmann says he disagrees with many of the things the mayor said, but said they understand the city “has something in mind on what they want to do.”
Quatmann says the city does not want his company to be the developer and they have agreed to work with the developer the city chose.
He says they have had conversations and will continue to have conversations with the developer, and he has assured the city they will continue the discussion.
Mayor Gluba responded that they want to push the discussions into action. Gluba says they are way beyond the discussion time and it is time to seriously negotiate. He says on the employee issue he’s heard the opposite from people, that they are excited by the prospects of a big new facility that will bring in more people.
The Racing and Gaming Commission voted to renew the license, but asked the Isle of Capri to come back to them in three months with an update on the progress of making the improvements.
The owners of the Terrible’s Lakeside Casino in Osceola came under fire for a lack of improvements when it sought approval from Racing and Gaming on a credit agreement in November. Doug Gross, an attorney for the Clarke County Development Corporation, says the company has not met its obligations to keep jobs and to upgrade the facility with a new hotel.
Gross says the company has done a lot of talking since the November meeting, but things haven’t moved ahead. Gross says all they’ve had is “more happy talk, all we’ve had is smoke, and we need action.” Gross asked the commission to approve a conditional license until they resolve the issue.
Herbst Gaming C.E.O., David Ross, says they got the message after the November meeting and have plans for a hotel. Ross says he “heard this commission loud and clear” and reopened the credit agreement and carved out $10-million for development on the property. He says he’s shared the plans with the development corporation and are on the path toward development.
Ross says they have been cautious and says talk of a potential tax increase on casinos was one factor. Ross says the tax increases that were being talked about would have put “an economic hardship around the entire property” and they would have to look at all the financial information as it would “change dramatically.”
Will Reisinger is a local businessman who is on the development board and says the plans have been vague, and says he believes the casino is just waiting for a developer who will come along and spend the money so they don’t have to. Casino attorney, Jerry Crawford, said they have been talking with several potential developers and said they want a joint venture so they can use as much of their money as they can for other facility improvements.
Crawford says if they get to April and don’t have a joint venture partner project for a hotel that they can bring to the commission in July, they will move ahead with their own plan. “But it will reduce the cash flow available to do other things to make this a more exciting and job-creating kind of property,” Crawford said. Reisinger says they just want things to move forward.
“We’re sitting on a lake that is gorgeous on an interstate with everybody traveling north and south from Minnesota to Texas, we just need development. Development is what we need,” he says. Reisinger says it’s the most underdeveloped casino site in the state and anything they can do to develop it and get people to stop will increase everyone’s income.
The Racing and Gaming Commission approved a new license for the casino, but asked for a report in three months on the progress of the development.