Casino developers pitch plans to IRGC - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Casino developers pitch plans to IRGC

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© "It's a difficult decision, but at the end of the day it's really going to be good for Siouxland. They are going to get a first rate facility," said Iowa Racing and Gaming Chair Jeff Lamberti. © "It's a difficult decision, but at the end of the day it's really going to be good for Siouxland. They are going to get a first rate facility," said Iowa Racing and Gaming Chair Jeff Lamberti.

Thursday morning, three developers pitched four Woodbury County casino plans to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. They'll choose one of the projects, and award its developer a gambling license in April.

Winnebago, Nebraska-based Ho-Chunk Incorporated started the presentations. They plan to renovate Sioux City's Warrior and Davidson buildings, turning them into a $122 million facility. Called the Warrior Casino & Hotel, Ho-Chunk officials say 70% of its net will stay in Siouxland. They say their project isn't just local, but unique.

"It could be our community's calling card. It's going to be the place you want to stay when you go there. Nobody has a story about Applebee's, nobody has a story about the Ramada Inn, but people will be able to start their stories again, on the Warrior, said Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan.

On the flip side, Las Vegas-based Sioux City Entertainment loves brands. They want to turn the Battery Building into a $118 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. SCE officials say their branding will bring in tourists from as far away as Kansas City, and give them the best annual revenue, $90 million.

"Brands matter. My kids don't want to go to the local hamburger stand. They want to go to McDonalds. I have a hard time complaining because I drive past two or three coffee shops to get my Starbucks in the morning," said SCE President Bill Warner.

The Pennsylvania-based owner of Sioux City's Argosy Casino finished the day. Penn National Gaming has two proposals. One, a $160 million Hollywood Casino, downtown off Gordon Drive.  The other, a $167 million Hollywood Casino and hotel, near I-29's Port Neal Interchange. Penn's chairman says the company is the best run in the business. He also jabbed competitors for renovating old Sioux City buildings.

"It's a very difficult process, number one. Number two, you never get the kind of things we're offering in these [Hollywood] facilities. You just can't get there, because of physical, structural limitations," said Chairman Peter Carlino.

The Racing and Gaming chair, Jeff Lamberti, says commissioners were looking for great amenities, and powerful economic impact in these presentations. He says they'll will play an important role in their final decision.

"It's a difficult decision, but at the end of the day it's really going to be good for Siouxland. They are going to get a first rate facility," he said.

The IRGC makes their pick April 18th. Before that, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation will do a background check on each developer.  They'll present findings March 6th in a closed door meeting. Then, March 26th, the commission will head to Sioux City to hear from the public, and visit potential casino sites.

Like one of the four casino proposals more than the rest? Casino developers want you to write about it. All three have posted email links on their project websites.

Administrators with the gaming commission say they'll collect all the messages before the April decision. They say commissioners will have to determine their importance.

"It is up to the discretion of those five commission members. It may weigh more heavily on some, than others," said IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko.

Check out each developer's website here:

Ho-Chunk, Inc.
Sioux City Entertainment

Penn National Gaming

Before the IRGC heard the proposals, commissioners officially approved a lease extension between Sioux City, and the owner of the Argosy, The Belle, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming.

The lease allows the riverboat to dock on city property. In return, the city collects 3% of the gaming revenue.

The 12-month extension keeps the Argosy's rent the same, and releases both parties from legal liability for past conduct.

The lease extension would start January  29th, pending approval by the city council the day before.

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