State gaming commission frustrated with Davenport

The head of Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission said he was frustrated with Davenport Wednesday, as plans for a new, land-based casino slowly moved forward.

At Wednesday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the council’s finance committee moved two deals forward. The first was a development agreement with Dan Kehl, which the City Council tabled last week. The second was a last-minute proposal from developer Rodney Blackwell and his Davenport Casino Group, LLC.

Next week, the City Council will vote on the development agreements with Kehl and Blackwell, and could approve one or both of them because they are non-exclusive.

The state Racing and Gaming Commission, though, says it is tired of the arguing and threats of lawsuits that city leaders have put forth.

“The message it sends to the commission is that people are more concerned about some of their own petty fights than they are about getting this done,” said IRGC chair Jeff Lamberti.

Wednesday, Davenport aldermen said they understand the Commission’s frustration. They, too, understand the importance of being on good terms with the Riverboat Development Authority.

“When you go before the gambling commission, they have the license. You want to go hand-in-hand, in concert and collaboration. When you’re at odds, it makes us look bad down here. It really does,” said Alderman Barney Barnhill.

Discussions about moving Rhythm City Casino to land have gone on in Davenport since 2005. Recently, worries have arisen that the Racing and Gaming Commission might pull the gaming license from Davenport altogether if negotiations take too long. Lamberti said that move is unlikely, but a possibility.

“That would not be something that would come to our mind early in the process, but yeah, we would have power to move it outside the city limits if necessary,” said Lamberti

Lamberti also doesn’t consider Blackwell a relevant party in future casino discussions, saying a deal needs to be worked out between Kehl, the Isle of Capri, the RDA, and the City.

“I just don’t think this last-minute proposal helps much because of the timeliness of it. If this was six months ago, it could have been relevant,” said Lamberti.

Now, Lamberti says local politics and personalities may be getting in the way of a deal for Davenport.

“Sometimes you’ve got to put all of that aside, get in a room together, and get it figured out, because you’re costing the people there a wonderful opportunity, and it’s gone on long enough,” said Lamberti.

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