Amrit Gill of Restoration St. Louis was critical Thursday of a consultant’s report that appears to have kicked the Davenport City Council’s favor toward an interstate-based casino and away from his downtown proposal.
The analysis of Restoration St. Louis’ downtown casino proposal and Ingenus Management and Consulting’s plan for an interstate casino and downtown branch was presented to aldermen Wednesday by casino consultant Gary Buettner.
Revenue estimates by Buettner showed the Ingenus project would return $91.3 million in gross gaming revenue and $11 million in net revenue to the city, while the Restoration
St. Louis project would provide $67.2 million in gross gaming revenue and $10.5 million in revenue to the city. The city revenue in the figures is before any debt service is paid.
The city is in the process of acquiring the Rhythm City casino from the Isle of Capri for $46 million. The city’s bond counsel estimates annual debt payments at $3.5 million.
“Have they really looked at the numbers?” Gill said of Buettner’s report. “He has been given his marching orders and told what to do.”
Speaking to the council Wednesday, Buettner conceded it was difficult to compare two different projects, and he tried to distill them down to the revenue numbers.
Restoration St. Louis, guided by Amrit Gill and his wife, Amy, has control of the block in downtown Davenport bounded by 2nd and 3rd and Main and Harrison streets where the casino was planned. Gill didn’t know what the fate of that property would be if the casino plan were scrapped.
The Gills point out that a downtown casino would boost other businesses downtown, an argument also made by the Davenport Downtown Partnership. Buettner told the council the Ingenus proposal has a greater opportunity for expansion and would invite retail development to northwest Davenport.
Although Restoration St. Louis has another downtown apartment development planned to begin this summer at East 5th Street and Pershing Avenue, Gill, who said he cares passionately about Davenport, wondered whether his company’s development work in Davenport might be coming to an end.
“We have lots of cities calling us,” he said. “There are plenty of opportunities in other places.”
He did say Restoration St. Louis would always have a presence in Davenport with the Hotel Blackhawk, Forrest Block and Renwick Building apartments.
Amy Gill said she is starting a Facebook page called Downtown Davenport Defense to show the investment made in the downtown and how a casino would benefit it. The company isn’t giving up on the casino, she said.
The swerve by the council toward the Ingenus project prompted Aldermen Nathan Brown, 1st Ward, and Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, to ask for a special meeting so the council can move its negotiating committee to begin talks with Ingenus on a development agreement. That special meeting will be Wednesday.
Ingenus president Ken Mimmack said he was aware of recent events with the council and was awaiting official notification.
“We are very happy to hear that news,” Mimmack said. “We are excited to help them in their due diligence as best that we can.”
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Buettner also told the council that operating fees and developer fees are areas that should be open for negotiation, saying they “seem a bit excessive.”
A third proposal was eliminated Wednesday. Atrium Holding proposed putting a casino floor into the Radisson Quad-City Plaza on East 2nd Street. Atrium officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The city would like to place a license application on the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s agenda for its March 7 meeting. That deadline is Feb. 21. Without a special City Council meeting, aldermen wouldn’t have the chance to have city staff move forward with negotiations with either developer until after the council’s Feb. 13 meeting, leaving little time before the Feb. 21 agenda deadline.
Riverboat Development Authority president Mary Ellen Chamberlin said her organization’s license renewal already is on that agenda and the city could piggy-back with that, so she wondered if the city is hurrying.
The RDA has tentatively scheduled a meeting Wednesday to hear a presentation from Buettner. Several members of the RDA have met in small groups with Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin and Buettner in recent days.
The RDA has permission to speak with the city until today. Chamberlin has said no extension has been granted. The Isle expressed concerns that members of the RDA have been talking to other gaming companies about the Davenport license.
The Isle hasn’t said it denied an extension. Company spokeswoman Jill Alexander said the Isle is evaluating the situation daily.
Chamberlin said she wasn’t concerning herself with the situation, leaving that to RDA attorney Bob H. Gallagher. Gallagher didn’t return a call for comment Thursday.