The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 5-0 today to deny a renewal of the gambling license for Penn gaming, which operates Belle of Sioux City gambling boat. Penn has been at odds with the non-profit license holder Missouri River Historical Development or MRHD and that led the commission to award a license to a new company to move the casino operation to land.

Racing and Gaming Administrator, Brian Ohorilko says the commission felt Penn was not eligible for a license. “There is no operating agreement between the non-profit entity that’s licensed for that operation, MRHD, and the Bell. Therefore, we believe that the Bell is statutorily ineligible for a gaming license in the State of Iowa,” Ohorilko says.

Penn filed suit after the commission awarded a license to a group that plans to open a Hard Rock Casino on land in Sioux City. It also stopped making payments to MHRD, which has linked with the new land-based developer.

The commission did not set a time for closing down the riverboat operation. “The Bell can continue to operate while there’s any appeal that they may file regarding that action. Really, things there in Sioux City will remain status quo, at least until that process runs its course,” according to Ohorilko.

Ohorilko says the perfect situation would have little down time for the casino operations. “The intention would be for there to be just one operation, so if the timing worked out as such, you would have one facility — the Bell close — at a time close to when the Hard Rock would open,” Ohorilko says. “If any decision were to be stayed by a court, that timing may not work out as such.”

That new owner group gave the commission an update today on their progress. “The commission did receive a report from Sioux City Entertainment — ie:Hard Rock — on both financing and the construction and the timeline for that,” Ohorilko says.

“Everything appears to be — at least as presented today at the meeting by the folks from Sioux City entertainment — on schedule and as represented previously to the commission. So, there no surprises with respect to that presentation today by Sioux City Entertainment.”

The commission met today at the casino in Riverside.