The legal battle isn’t over in Iowa for the operator of the former Argosy Sioux City and the state.
The Iowa Supreme Court has been asked by the former Argosy Casino’s parent company, the Belle of Sioux City, to overturn a 2014 decision by a three-member panel of justices. The court’s ruling confirmed the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s (IRGC) determination that the riverboat was in violation of a state law that requires casinos licensed by the state partner with a licensed local nonprofit group. The series of regulatory decisions by the state led to the closing of the gambling boat, which was replaced by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City. The ruling left Penn National Gaming Co., the boat’s operator, without any viable options to save the 250-employee riverboat casino on the Missouri River, according to the Sioux City Journal.
The dispute between Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD), which is the Hard Rock developer, SCE Partners LLC nonprofit license holder, began when contract disputes in 2011 and 2012 were the catalyst for the long-fought legal battle that ultimately lost Argosy its license. All state casino licenses are regulated by the IRGC, so when talks broke down between MRHD and Penn in June of 2012, the commission made the decision to accept bids for a land-based casino in Woodbury County. Following that decision, a split vote by the five-member commission in April 2013 awarded a license to MRHD and SCE Partners, beating out three other applicants , including Penn’s proposal for a Hollywood-style casino at two different sites.
Argosy based a request for a standard one-year renewal of its license on the fact that the MRHD refused to sign the license application, but in August 2013 it was rejected by the commission. Because the extension was no longer supported by the nonprofit, the signed agreement with MRHD presented by Belle for the Argosy was deemed by the IRGC to be invalid. After the decision was unsuccessfully contested by Argosy, the commission upheld the ruling and the riverboat was ordered to close by July 1, 2014. The Belle’s court challenge was considered by District Court Judge Eliza Ovrom and over that period the order was stayed twice by the judge. Ovrom affirmed the IRGC’s ruling on July 14, 2014 and the riverboat was given until July 22 to either close or get a stay from the Supreme Court.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was eventually awarded the license by the IRGC, and in July of 2014 the Argosy Casino was closed by court order. After which time, a lawsuit was filed by Belle claiming that its right to due process was violated by the IRGC, breaking several state laws in the process.
According to court records, the case has now been transferred by the Iowa Supreme Court to the Iowa Court of Appeals. A submission date has yet to be set by the court, during which time the court would hear written and or oral arguments.