A Riverboat Development Authority board member’s criticism of a Davenport plan to operate a land-based casino is “speculation and incorrect,” according to a response Wednesday by City Administrator Craig Malin.
Malin sent the three-page letter to RDA board member Chad Lewis, who sent out an email to other board members last week stating that the development process is skewed toward a downtown casino rather than the interstate corridor. The response also was sent to RDA president Mary Ellen Chamberlin, Mayor Bill Gluba and Davenport aldermen.
The city is in the process of buying the Rhythm City casino from Isle of Capri for $46 million, using municipal bonds.
Malin’s letter states the city intends to acquire Rhythm City, move the casino on land, increase revenue to the RDA and retain gaming profits within the community.
“Those four steps are the city’s intent, and any conjecture beyond that is groundless,” Malin wrote.
Lewis was critical of a scoring system for development proposals, saying the point system was skewed to benefit downtown sites.
Another board member, Don Decker, the RDA treasurer, agreed with Lewis, saying that points for quick and financially efficient projects back possible downtown projects at already-existing venues.
The city’s letter downplayed that claim. The scoring provides a maximum of four points out of a possible 125 for “walkable access to existing attractions” and the request for proposals released by the city includes “significant” parking requirements, according to the letter. Also, the scoring includes a category for expansion capability.
“Please keep in mind the RFP scoring process only is intended to help assess which prospective developers move on to the interview process,” the letter states. “A perfect score of 4 on ‘walkable access to existing attractions’ does not establish a winner.
“Also, please keep in mind the city fully expects RDA board members to be involved in the scoring and interview process.”
The city letter also notes that the 2010 Cummings Report commissioned by the city concluded that in determining a benefit of being downtown or on the interstate, “neither site offers significantly greater gaming revenue at one location versus the other.”
Pointing to other studies, Malin’s letter also defended the city’s due diligence in undertaking the casino project, referring to the Cummings Report and hiring Public Finance Management to study the financial implications of the project. A report last week by Bloomberg News called Davenport’s plan risky.
“Our steps forward have been guided by the best independent analysis available, and we have shared this information with the RDA,” the letter states. “We have detailed, independent financial analysis. The Bloomberg reporter had someone from New York, who answered the phone and offered an opinion without any substantive research.”
Malin also welcomed any other questions and concerns, inviting Lewis to “contact me by phone, email or office visit any time you may have questions in the future.”