The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has unanimously voted to open up an application process to any companies that would build a new, land-based casino in Sioux City. Commissioner Jeff Lamberti says it seems the best way to resolve uncertainty in the working relationship between the existing, riverboat casino operator and the non-profit that holds the gaming license for Sioux City.
“It kind of got to a position where it was a stalemate and we feel like we’ve given them sufficient time to reach an agreement,” Lamberti says. “Giving them more time didn’t seem to resolve that, and so now both parties can proceed, as we heard from Penn that they have identified another non-profit. I’m sure MRHD is going to go out and look for different operators and we may have others as well. It’s an open process at this point.”
State law requires a would-be casino operator to sign an agreement with a non-profit group that would hold a casino license. That working relationship for the Sioux City riverboat has deteriorated to the point where the non-profit sued Penn National Gaming and Penn National Gaming executives just went out and recruited its own alternative non-profit. Mark Monson is president of Missouri River Historic Development, the non-profit that currently holds Sioux City’s casino license.
“We’re going to have to think through this at a little more length, but we believe this probably opens this up for us to invite other operators to take a look at us as a non-profit and putting up a casino in Woodbury County,” Monson told reporters this morning.
The commission today also voted to extend the operating license for the existing casino ’til March 31st of 2013. The license was set to expire in a month.
“We are going to be considering this extension option that the IRGC has put out to us today and we look forward to continued fruitful discussions with the city, MRHD as well as the Racing Commission,” Penn National Gaming director of public affairs Karen Bailey told reporters.
Bailey won’t rule out the possibility the boat might close later this month when the existing license expires, but she says the company’s “first priority” is to keep it open.