The Riverboat Development Authority (RDA) went against the wishes of the City of Davenport Friday, May 31st, 2013 in its choice for developer of a new land-based casino.
The RDA chose Kehl Development Corporation. The Iowa-based company already operates Grand Falls Casino Resort in Larchwood Iowa, as well as Riverside Casino near Iowa City. In total, they've developed five casinos and have overseen the construction and renovation of over 15 gaming properties.
Dan Kehl, CEO of Kehl Development Corporation, describes his casino plan for Davenport as a "regional destination" that will "grow the market by more than 55% than what the current operation, Rhythm City Casino, does."
"It's going to be a beautiful facility," Kehl told News 8 on Friday. "It's going to be awesome."
Kehl calls the $110 million facility a casino resort that includes 1,000 slot machines, 25 table games, approximately 95 hotel rooms, multiple restaurants, a 1,500-seat performance theater, and a family entertainment center complete with bowling and an arcade.
Kehl says the resort will be located somewhere on Interstate 80 in Scott County and expects it to open no later than 2016.
But Mayor Bill Gluba and other city leaders could not hide their disappointment. After calling a Special City Council Meeting Friday night, during which Aldermen discussed possible litigation behind closed doors, Fifth Ward Alderwoman Sheilia Burrage shared her thoughts.
"This was a chance for us to generate more revenue without depending on our taxpayers to pay through the nose for every single thing that happens," Alderwoman Burrage told News 8 after the meeting. "I'm very disappointed, because I looked at those board members to be our partner and to make this happen and I'm just really sad. I'm sad for everybody."
The city's plan, which was one of the proposals the RDA considered, includes a $33-million investment for land, infrastructure, and buildings at the Interstate 80/Interstate 280 Interchange. However, the casino project itself would be privately owned.
But RDA Board Members say they searched for a way to build a land-based casino without any city involvement.
"All proposals were evaluated equally, but we gave a nod to those that were total private funding and this one is," Gary Mohr, Chairman of the RDA, told News 8 in reference to Kehl's plan. "The $110 millionis in addition to the purchase price (of Rhythm City Casino) and it's all private money. There's no city money involved so the real winners here, I think are the taxpayers of Davenport, the City Council of Davenport - who does not have to put the taxpayers at risk or in debt - as well as the people of Scott County because they will benefit from increased income to the RDA for our non-for-profit activities."
The city's plan would also increase revenue to the city, school district, county, and the RDA by $13.8 million annually, but now all of that will need to be negotiated.
"I think the city obviously has some expectations of what they'd like to see and whether those expectations are realistic or not, I think is a discussion that will need to happen," says Kehl.
The RDA has approved a 120-day window for the Kehl Development Corporation to work with the Isle of Capri Corporation (owners of the Rhythm City Casnio), the City of Davenport, and the RDA. In addition, the RDA now has the "go-ahead" to make a report to submit to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The IRGC's next meeting is June 6th, 2013.