It is not out of the question that Davenport's casino-license holder will be ready to recommend a new developer at its meeting this month.
The Riverboat Development Authority, led by Mary Ellen Chamberlin, was handed another option last week when the city produced its own proposal for a new casino and developer to replace Rhythm City Casino, owned by Isle of Capri. A task force consisting of three members of the RDA, its attorney and Chamberlin, already had several proposals to consider.
"We've been reviewing them, along with the Isle of Capri, to see which ones are viable," Chamberlin said Friday. "They don't want to go down the path with another developer who can't come up with the financing or get through the (Iowa) Racing and Gaming Commission.
"They want to be solid before they sell. Since we want them to sell, we're on the same page.
"The next step will be interviews."
The next meeting of the RDA is May 20.
"I don't know if we'll be quite ready to vote on it by then," she said, adding that the task force ultimately will make a recommendation to the full board. "There are two other possible options, including calling a special meeting or the annual meeting. It would be in June, either way."
Davenport officials announced Tuesday they have come up with a plan that abandons a previous attempt to place the city in the gambling business. Under the new proposal, Quad-City developer Rodney Blackwell would own the casino and neighboring hotel, and taxpayers would supply $33 million for the construction near the Interstate 80/280 interchange.
In exchange for its investment, the city would get a considerable increase in the percentage of gross gaming receipts it receives annually — from 1.65 percent to 11.4 percent. The increase would give Davenport an estimated $11 million annually in gaming proceeds, versus the current yearly take of $825,000. The new casino operator also would pay property taxes, which are not required of Rhythm City's floating casino.
The combined city, county, school district and RDA revenues would amount to $16.9 million yearly, city officials estimate.
While Blackwell would own the casino and related developments, the casino would be managed by Ingenus Management/Consulting, which won the city's favor during previous considerations over a desirable developer.
For its part, the RDA is employing a number of criteria in its selection, including the ability of casino contenders to sufficiently finance the operation. Also under consideration, Chamberlin said, are the size, scope and the amount to be invested in the development. Fees and percentages paid to the RDA for distribution throughout the community also are a consideration, along with the ability of everyone involved in the project to obtain the proper licensing from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
"They look at everyone who has a penny in the project," Chamberlin said of the state commissioners. "It's too easy to launder money in the gambling business."
Blackwell did not respond last week to efforts to contact him, and it is not clear whether he has undergone any of the licensing process. The chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Jeff Lamberti, said last week the momentum in Davenport's progress will be slowed when the newly selected operator reaches the licensing stage.
Ken Mimmack, president and CEO of Ingenus, said his company will not have to go into it cold, because of its involvement in other Iowa projects. The company also holds active gaming-related licenses in other states.
"We went through all the backgrounding," he said Friday. "It helps being licensed in other jurisdictions, too. It just gives them comfort."
He said officials at Ingenus also are eager for Davenport's gaming license to find a new home.
"We're just letting the process move, helping where we can," he said. "Hopefully, things will get moving along."