UPDATE: Judge lifts stay of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's gaming license
Court hearing on January 30, 2014 in Polk County Court in Des Moines, Iowa.
DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV)- A central Iowa judge has lifted a stay of the gaming license issued to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino being built in downtown Sioux City.
After reconsidering the stay request by Penn National Gaming, the judge ruled the stay shouldn't be issued. The judge said, though the IRGC did not follow the exact procedure to convert the license from riverboat gaming to land-based gaming, the result was the same if it had. The judge said it's unlikely Penn would prevail because the IRGC was authorized to convert the gaming license from the riverboat to a land-based casino.
Penn also argued that the Argosy would suffer "irreparable harm" if the stay isn't entered. The judge agreed with Penn on this point, but disagreed with Penn's argument that the harm would extend to other parties. Penn says 300 people would lose their jobs when Argosy closes prior to Hard Rock's opening. The judge says Hard Rock will employ 500 people in the new casino, and another 400 for its construction. Also noted by the judge, the financial harm to SCE if the stay was issued. In addition, the judge said, the city of Sioux City has invested millions of dollars in the project.
Penn National released this statement via Twitter. They say they are "disappointed with the judge's decision," but remain confident in their legal position.
Bill Warner, President and CEO of Sioux City Entertainment agreed with the judge's decision saying, "We thank the court for the thorough and fair assessment of our position." Warner went on to say SCE remains committed to bringing the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to Siouxland."
IRGC chairman Jeff Lamberti says he's happy with the outcome as well. "The commission's opinion throughout the process has been that we acted according to Iowa law."
Penn will still have its day in court. A hearing on the license is set December 22nd of this year.
This ruling has been coming since December. That's when a Polk County judge issued the stay of Hard Rock's gaming license.
That's after Penn National filed a petition objecting to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's decision not to extend the gaming license of the Argosy Casino... and later awarding the license to the Hard Rock.
While construction continued on the $128-million project, the stay meant it couldn't operate as a casino once it opened.
Sioux City Entertainment appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled on December 19th, to stay that stay order until a
January 30th hearing before a different Polk County judge. At that hearing, lawyers for SCE argued stopping construction of the Hard Rock-- at this stage-- would be "devastating to the city of Sioux City." But, lawyers for Penn National argued SCE went forward with construction knowing the risks involved.
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