MRHD: "not optimistic" on Argosy agreement - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

MRHD: "not optimistic" on Argosy agreement


The debate over a new operating contract between two groups that oversee Sioux City's Argosy Casino continued in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  For months, the two have been battling to bring the boat ashore.

Thursday, in front of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Argosy's owner Penn National Gaming said they have an idea where they'd like to put it in downtown Sioux City.

They won't tell us where the site is, but say if it's developed, it would be one of the company's "Hollywood" brand casino's, a 100,000 square foot facility, with slots, table games, restaurants, and more.

Cost is estimated at $100 million. Construction would take 18 months.

Penn National may seem close to reaching a new operating contract, but the non-profit that shares the casino's gaming license, Missouri River Historical Development, disagrees.

"I'm not very optimistic," said MRHD's president Mark Monson.

Monson says MRHD has a serious problem with the economics of Penn's latest proposal. Currently, MRHD gets 3 percent of the Argosy's revenue each year, which they give back to the community through grants and scholarships. In Penn's new plan, that percentage wouldn't change.

Not fair says MRHD citing similar casino/non-profit deals in Waterloo and Emmetsburg.

"Siouxland, as a community, is asked to take on a percentage slightly over half of what those other communities take," said board member Dave Bernstein.

Penn sees things differently. They say their new casino is projected to earn more than the Argosy. That means MRHD will get more money, even at 3 percent.

"It would be 3 percent of a much bigger pie as opposed to the existing amount," said Penn National Gaming Vice President Tom Burke.

MRHD doesn't disagree they'll get more, but to them, things still don't add up.

"We'll make a little bit more, but they're going to make a lot more.  And we think Woodbury County and the 103,000 people that live there should benefit from some of that as well," said Monson.

Monson says the time to act is now. He says once the percentage is agreed upon, it will stay in place until the contract is renewed again, in another 30 to 50 years.

"This is it. There is no redo on this," said Monson.

The MRHD/Penn contract is set to expire in July. Monson says if no agreement is reached, he believes, the Argosy will be forced to close. Penn officials say that's just "speculation."

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