Rhythm City Casino

The Rhythm City Casino in Davenport. (File photo)

John Schultz

A member of the Riverboat Development Authority board claims Davenport’s process for developing a land-based casino is skewed toward downtown rather than the city’s interstate corridor.

The email, written by RDA board member Chad Lewis with the support of board treasurer Don Decker, went out to board members Friday. In it, Lewis is critical of the scoring process for proposals, saying it favors a downtown casino.

Although the RDA and its president, Mary Ellen Chamberlin, will be involved in evaluating proposals, the email questioned the outcome based on the scoring system.

Lewis confirmed he wrote the email but declined to comment on Tuesday. Decker, who also is concerned about the project’s finances, said he favors a casino located along the interstate.

“The point system laid out by (Davenport City Administrator) Craig Malin is tilted in the favor of a downtown location,” the email states. “Mary Ellen stated we would be allowed to participate in the review process.

“Our participation won’t matter if the scoring template is already skewed in favor of downtown,” the email states. “This serves two purposes from the city side of the equation. They can claim fair play and look innocent when all the selected RFP’s (request for proposals) are downtown locations.”

Decker points out that the process allows points for not just “proximity to Quad-City population center” and “walkable access to existing attractions,” but also cost efficiency and time efficiency. That, he said, favors existing venues such as the downtown Radisson Quad-City Plaza and Hotel Blackhawk.

An addendum to the request for proposals lists 18 city-owned properties. Seven of those are located downtown, but four properties are located south of River Drive. The largest city-owned parcel downtown is the 3.6-acre Florian Kean parking lot.

City officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday, although Malin confirmed a response to the email is being drafted.

RDA board president Gary Mohr said the email is from one voice, and the board hasn’t taken a position. Chamberlin said the email shows a difference of opinion among board members.

“Everyone on the board has an opinion, but the board itself hasn’t issued an opinion,” she said. “Some favor an interstate location, and others favor a downtown location.

“There is some lobbying going on in there. Until the board acts on this, it is one person’s opinion.”

She admits that when the city worked with developer Steve Edelson on a proposed casino project, it was more willing to provide incentives for a downtown location.

Decker doesn’t think everyone involved is aware of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s support of an interstate casino and is suspicious that requests didn’t go out to all parties that requested them.

“I think some light needs to be shed on this,” Decker said. “I think it needs more transparency and honesty. I don’t think all the facts were given to aldermen.”

The RDA board is seeking more information from the city, and members are to submit questions to RDA attorney Bob Gallagher Sr. by Friday so they can be given to the city to respond. A board meeting where those questions are to be answered is scheduled for Dec. 14.