A month after receiving a trio of casino proposals, the Davenport City Council narrowed its focus to one Wednesday night, with its primary site on the city’s interstate corridor.
Aldermen voted 10-0 during a special meeting to enter into negotiations with Ingenus Management and Consulting of Brainard, Minn., and Financial District Properties, a Quad-City company headed by developer Rodney Blackwell, on its interstate casino proposal, which includes a satellite boutique casino downtown.
Ken Mimmack, president of Ingenus, was pleased with the council’s decision.
“This was important,” he said. “This is a first step. We look forward to sitting down with the committee and hearing their thoughts.”
The council’s move is a step forward in the process of acquiring the Rhythm City Casino for at least $46 million and bringing it on land.
The next step is approval of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. But the city likely won’t get an application to the commission for consideration in March, Mayor Bill Gluba said. More likely, the city would request an opportunity to update the commission in March, with an application in May or June.
“We’ve got 29 very independent-thinking, competent local citizens who want to do their due diligence,” Gluba said. “When you have some independent thinkers, it takes time.”
The motion approved by the council provides several directions beyond negotiation:
n Determine whether an existing downtown property owner could deliver a satellite “gaming parlor” — about 10 percent of the interstate casino project — more cost-effectively than Ingenus.
n Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of multiple Interstate 80 locations.
n Revise the interstate casino design.
It also directed the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. to conduct due diligence of the Ingenus management team and review management and operator options.
Also, the council’s negotiating team is to solicit competitive financing with local banks as a potential source of capital in part or wholly, in lieu of issuing bonds.
While the council moved away from the Restoration St. Louis proposal for a downtown casino, it hasn’t been completely taken off the table.
Restoration St. Louis officials met with city officials earlier Wednesday and agreed to a backup role as negotiations proceed with Ingenus. The company may still be involved in downtown gaming, Alderman Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, said.
“The commitment to the downtown is still there, and we will work with them on the development that may or may not include a boutique casino,” Boom said. He represents the ward that includes downtown.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would have to approve the two-location concept.
A third proposal, from Atrium Properties to put a casino in the Radisson Quad-City Plaza on 2nd Street was removed for contention earlier in the month.
Steve Flogel, the business representative for Carpenters Local 4, expressed frustration with the process, suggesting that the city council, RDA and community improvement board meet jointly to make better progress.
“It doesn’t seem like anything is moving forward,” he said.
Two other meetings earlier in the day also dealt with casino issues:
• The Davenport Community Improvement Corp. voted to delay approval of an operating agreement with the Riverboat Development Authority for no more than seven days as certain language in it is revised. The nonprofit corporation will oversee casino operations once the city acquires the Rhythm City Casino from Isle of Capri.
• The RDA also met Wednesday to quiz the city’s casino consultant on the development proposals, but took no action on whether to approve the agreement. An RDA vote may not occur until a casino management team is identified by the community improvement group.
Many people still are getting up to speed on the city’s casino proposal, community improvement group board chairwoman Kelli Grubbs said. Her board seated two new people at a meeting Monday when the operating agreement with the RDA was to be approved. An attorney review was requested, prompting a one-week delay that was approved Wednesday.
“You want to do things the right way at the beginning so you don’t have problems down the line,” Grubbs said after her board’s meeting. “We want to do good business from the start.”