WATERLOO — Following the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's unanimous approval of the asset purchase request for Davenport's Rhythm City, casino operator Dan Kehl said plenty of work is ahead.
Kehl, of Scott County Casino LLC, dusted off a cliche to describe how Thursday's decision by the gaming commission felt, comparing himself to the dog that chases cars and finally catches one.
The closing on the $51 million Rhythm City purchase, property acquisition and financing for a $110 million land-based casino project in north Davenport, design and construction of the facility are on the horizon.
"There are still quite a few hurdles to go," he said.
That doesn't mean he isn't glad to have more hurdles.
"We're very excited," he said. "It has been a long, long process, and this is a great way to start the new year.
"I think the Quad-Cities is going to be one of the greatest gaming destinations in the Midwest with three properties there."
Riverboat Development Authority president Mary Ellen Chamberlin also looked to the future with a land-based casino. The RDA is a nonprofit organization that holds the state license for the Rhythm City.
"Hopefully, we'll be back to the heyday of riverboat gambling," she said, referring to when the RDA gave out $4 million a year in grants to area organizations, instead of the $2 million that has been the norm in recent years. "There will be some years before that happens."
Gaming commission Chairman Jeff Lamberti looks forward to a land-based casino in Davenport.
"We think it is a great untapped market with the traffic count and the population density," he said. "It will be good for the community and the state."
Kehl plans to have a final decision on an architect later this month, with closing on the Rhythm City purchase from Isle of Capri on Feb. 3.
"The vote by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission brings us one step closer to finalizing the Rhythm City Casino transaction," Isle of Capri spokeswoman Jill Alexander said in a statement. "Several items remain to be completed, and we expect to close the transaction in the next few weeks."
The casino will be closed for two to three days as Kehl's company, Scott County Casino LLC, changes computer systems. He said gamblers wouldn't see any significant changes but player's club cards will have to be switched because of the new computer system.
"We're not intending to make any significant changes to the property," he said. "We want to avoid any disruptions."
He told the gaming commission that all employees would remain and said after the meeting he was glad of that.
"We've got a great team," he said. "It is a seasoned team there."
Kehl will be looking for investors for Scott County Casino, and a prospectus is expected to be submitted soon to the Iowa insurance commissioner for approval. Investor meetings could be held in May and June.
The financing package for casino construction will require gaming commission approval. Construction is expected to start this fall with a 12-month timeline.
He told the gaming commission that funding for the purchase of the Rhythm City included $17 million in equity from his family, $17 million in equity from other investors and a $25 million loan from Wells Fargo, totalling $59 million. That loan includes terms under which the interest rate increases over time.
"There is incentive to get things moving on the interstate," he said.
The additional funds will be used to pay fees and expenses related to the Rhythm City purchase and planning and design for the land-based casino.