DUBUQUE — Davenport appears to be back at square one in its search for a land-based casino.

An Isle of Capri representative told the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission on Thursday that the potential sale of Davenport’s Rhythm City casino boat has collapsed. Michael Fries, the Isle’s vice president of legal affairs, called the recent development a frustrating one.

“The Isle believes this transaction is not going to occur,” Mike Fries told the commission. “We are exploring all options.”

After the meeting, Fries declined to elaborate on his report to the commission.

The latest report to the gaming commission is a 180-degree turn from the August commission meeting when Fries said the sale was gaining momentum. The city’s agreement to build a land-based casino with developer MSEG ends in November.

That doesn’t deter Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba from thinking positively about the city’s gaming future.

“The whole thing is going through lots of twists and turns, and this is one of them,” he said. “I have lots of confidence in the value of our gaming market.”

He points to the success of Rock Island with its land-based Jumer’s Casino & Hotel and the Wild Rose, located in Clinton.

“This is a great market with huge potential,” he said. “I have great confidence that something will get done.”

Davenport officials have said they will follow the two-year agreement with MSEG until it expires but have voiced frustration with the company’s inability to get a sale done. City attorney Tom Warner, who attended the meeting with Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, said the report wasn’t a surprise.

Steve Edelson, a partner in MSEG, didn’t return a call or email seeking comment Thursday.

The economic climate is difficult for a sale, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

“In general, gaming is a tough market because the credit is dried up,” he said. “Six years ago, a casino with 500 slot machines, someone would be willing to pay a few million dollars.

“Today, you’re not going to find that money.”

Racing and Gaming Commission chairman Jeff Lamberti said the panel is willing to be patient but knows what it wants from the Davenport market. He did say the latest development is frustrating but not a surprise.

“We do believe we have to go land-based to help the local community,” he said, adding that the Rhythm City continues to lose market share. “These are complex transactions.

“You just can’t snap your fingers and make it happen.”

Mary Ellen Chamberlin, president of the Riverboat Development Authority, which holds Rhythm City’s gambling license, said she saw Thursday’s news coming.

“We’ve never had an agreement (with another operator), and they can’t do anything without an agreement with us,” she said. “We wouldn’t approve a new contract without a memo of understanding with us.”

She said she has been following negotiations with a potential new operator, adding the progress has been sluggish. She declined to identify the potential buyer.

“We’ve had exchanges with our attorneys,” she said. “The last thing that came to us was not satisfactory. They only thing we loved about them (a potential operator) is they wanted to be downtown.”


(6) comments

The Bucktown Kid

The I wireless Center (The Mark) had bonds, private investment and most importantly Deere & Company behind it. Davenport had none of those things to offer which is why that happened the way that it did.

The race track is another thing entirely. The main driver there was the fact that the Manatt family based in Brooklyn, Iowa put their substantial resources behind the track which got it built in Newton just down the road from their corporate headquarters. Manatt is big in quarries and road building in Iowa among other things all of which went to the building of the track.


Just a thought, maybe the City should buy the casino. Just think of the income it would generate for the City of Davenport that could be used for roads, schools, maybe some grant money for small businesses that are starting up if they agree to hire a certain number of employees, etc etc. I think the income potential if it was done right would be enormous. If we could just get them to use it for good and not to line there own pockets.


It isnt just entertainment businesses that they block. I have heard of several other types of businesses that wanted to open in different areas in Davenport that ended up going elsewhere. The reason that they go elsewhere is the city makes unreasonable demands that push the businesses away. They are unwilling to bend. Several years ago The current Rhythm city tried and tried to come up with a plan to build a hotel and a place to hold concerts, but they were blocked by the city at every turn because they didnt want them to block the view of the river. Think of all the jobs that would of been created that are now lost. They raise property taxes and do everything they can to rake in more money, yet they send businesses away. It is just plain stupid.


the problem with Davenport, is that they think small, and they think short term and not long term. they could have done something like the Mark, but did something like the Adler and river center. the river center is a joke, just like the auto show. I would like to know what is going on with the menards new store.


The City of Davenport is dumb anyways. They are against entertainment. They got approached for a Speedway to be put in on 80/280. Nope, before the Mark opened in Moline they approached Davenport, nothing. Here we have a dilema and community this size with no viable attraction. The Mississippi River can only take you so far. Open up a land based Casino on I-80, put in a music theater like Tinley Park to attract big names. State of the Art waterpark that can attrack, amusement park anything. Davenport can do much better, but they sit on their butts and hope the River attracts people. You want to know why people move away, because there is nothing to do. We have the people and the capability to support something like this, but they want to revitalize downtown. Let small businesses revitalize the downtown. No Vision in this old outdated town.


I am under the belief that if the City of Davenport would be more flexible with the IOC or with a prospective buyer that the Rhythm City could develop into an area attraction that could bring thousands of visitors to Davenport. City of Davenport Pleeeeease stop being so anti business, you are costing us jobs and growth.

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