Davenport Council Likes Casino Deal, Must Deal with Isle - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Davenport Council Likes Casino Deal, Must Deal with Isle

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It's been in the works for years, but now Davenport might be one step closer to a land-based casino. Council members gave preliminary approval to a development deal with Dan Kehl and Scott County Casino Wednesday night.

The agreement calls for the construction of a 100-million dollar casino and hotel complex, featuring a spa and fitness center..and restaurants. It also calls for the casino to pay full property taxes to the city, Davenport School District and Scott County.

Ken Bonnet, Chief Financial Officer at the Riverside and Grand Falls Casinos, says, "This is one of the smoothes and quickest negotiations of this type of agreement we have run across. I guess to some degree it's because we've both been to this dance several times before and it went really smoothly, so we're pleased."

Most council members say they are too, calling this a win-win.But some are also concerned about what's next. Mayor Bill Gluba says, "We're moving in the right direction. We got the best deal we could get with Mr. Kehl. At the same time, the Isle of Capri, we think there's been some damages there, our attorneys think there have been and we have to talk about this."

Gluba is talking about a development deal announced back in 2004. The Isle was on board to build a 43-million dollar casino and hotel on land downtown near where the Rhythm City still sits. Back then, the project was expected to bring in more than nine- million dollars in taxes and fees its first year. But that never happened.

And nearly a decade later, city leaders and the Isle have to deal with that development agreement before they can move forward with this one, the one with Scott County Casino and Dan Kehl. Talking about it during the council meeting, Alderman Bill Edmond said, "The City of Davenport will certainly be no impediment to this agreement."

But while most aldermen are on board, the Mayor says he wants to make sure they are all looking out for the city's taxpayers. "What's in the best financial interest of the people of Davenport, not Mr. Kehl, not his gaming operation, not the Isle. They've treated us shabbily over the years, ran the boat into the ground, lost millions of dollars that should have come to the community."

It's why city leaders are working with Kehl, as the RDA asked them to. But the Mayor says, "We have deals which were substantially better." Like he says , the most recent with a developer offering 11 percent versus this deal's four percent fee. "We would have been able to lower property taxes by a substantial amount of money."

At the same time, city leaders will negotiate, with Kehl's group and with the isle. But the Mayor reminds us, this development deal is non-exclusive. So he says anyone with a better deal can present it to the RDA and the City.

Meantime, city leaders are moving forward with this deal, the mayor says working in good faith to make it happen.  Aldermen will vote on it one more time, next Wednesday. And as they negotiate with the Isle, the developer is also negotiating with the RDA. The developer hopes to start construction in the Spring, with the casino open in three years, and everything else in five.

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