Talks are continuing between the license holder for the Argosy Riverboat Casino in Sioux City and casino operator Penn Gaming over the operation of a land-based casino. Missouri River Historical Development (MHRD) is the non-profit group that holds the license and has been trying to work out an extension on the current 20-year agreement which expires July seventh.

MRHD’s board chairman, Mark Monson, says they offered Penn an extension that would run the contract through March of 2015. “The rationale from the board’s viewpoint of doing that is to allow us to continue to deal with the issues…and even if we agree today, it’s gonna take two years to get it done. So, it’s a matter of continuing on and getting things to happen,” Monson says.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, which approves casino licenses, told the two sides in March that they want to see them reach a compromise by the commission’s June meeting. The casino could be force to close if they don’t come to an agreement.

Monson says the extension would keep the casino open while they continue negotiations. “It would be a benefit to Penn at the tune of 50-million (dollars) to extend that to March 2015 and MHRD would get about 4.5-million out of that, as is, no changes,” Monson says. “So, we’re not looking for anything big, we’re looking for what we have to move forward so we can get things done.”

Monson says neither side wants to see the 300 plus jobs at the casino be negatively impacted by the impasse. Monson hopes the two sides will have something positive to announce about their operating agreement at the Racing and Gaming Commission meeting on June seventh.

As for the new casino, Penn National made an offer it said would be a $100-million investment for a land-based casino in a location that has not yet been identified. The city council rejected that offer, saying the company was only putting in 35-million new dollars into the plan when the existing gaming machines and city investment are taken out.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City