Three companies, four plans, hundreds of millions of dollars on the line. The competition for Woodbury County's new, land-based casino gaming license is fierce. So, how did we get to this point?
What will end with the gaming license awarded by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, began with the IRGC back in March. The five-member panel issued a conditional, one year renewal of the gaming license for the Argosy Casino. The commission then gave Penn National, the boat's owner, and Missouri River Historical Development, the non-profit license holder, until June 7th to work out their differences on a long-term contract. "I'm not very optimistic," said Mark Monson, MRHD President. That's because the deal came down to money. How much Penn wanted to give MRHD, and how much MRHD wanted to take.
With no deal, the IRGC's June deadline came, and went. And, the IRGC stepped in voting unanimously to accept applications for a new land-based casino operator, and non-profit to hold the gaming license. "We feel like we gave sufficient time to Penn and MRHD to work something out. We need to move this forward for the folks in Woodbury County and also for the state of Iowa," said IRGC Commissioner Jeff Lamberti.
Ho-Chunk, Inc. was first to talk publicly-- thought not specifically-- about their plans, in August. Four months later, they rolled out plans for a casino hotel in the old Warrior Hotel, downtown.
"It's going to create a tourist destination. It's going to be the place you want to go down there," said Lance Morgan, Ho-Chunk, Inc. CEO.
In October, MRHD announced its partnership with Sioux City Entertainment to bring a Hard Rock Casino Hotel to Sioux City's Battery Building. "We wanted to introduce amenities that would be complementary and not compete with the community, but really add to it. I think it's going to be a great fit," said President of Sioux City Entertainment Bill Warner.
Just a month later, Penn National announced its own proposals... Hollywood Casinos, either in downtown Sioux City, or near Salix off of I-29. "And we already have an option on the site. The site is under our control at this point. So should we be awarded a license we can move very swiftly to develop there," said Penn National's Public Affairs VP Eric Schippers.
It's now up to the IRGC to "roll the dice", and pick the plan, they believe, will benefit Sioux City, and Woodbury County
Again, the IRGC will award that gaming license during its April 18th meeting, in Council Bluffs.
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