The lengthy legal battle between state gambling regulators, the former Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino, and the casino’s local partner came to an end on Monday when the Iowa Supreme Court denied the request of the Belle of Sioux City to review a ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals that upheld past rulings that led to the closure of the casino. The Bell’s application for review was a last ditch effort by the company to keep the case alive, according to the Sioux City Journal.
In March, the ruling by the three-judge panel of the Iowa Court of Appeals was two-fold, determining that the incomplete gambling license renewal applications of the Argosy’s in 2012 and 2013 with the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) was not the catalyst for protections made clear in Iowa law. And the subsequent actions of the IRGC denying the Belle of Sioux City, Argosy’s Iowa-based operator, a gaming license and awarding of a gambling license to another applicant was not in violation of the Belle’s right to due process.
Attorney for Belle, Mark Weinhardt’s application for review of that ruling to the Supreme Court said the state’s casino license renewal statute was misinterpreted by the Court of Appeals, it inconsistently and incorrectly determined the degree to which agencies are bound by their actions and words, and the ruling by the court damages the due process rights of litigants before state agencies. That ruling was upheld by the one-sentence order on Monday that denied further review.
The case was transferred to the Court of Appeals in December, after the Belle of Sioux City’s initial appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. The company filed its notice of appeal challenging District Judge Eliza Ovrum’s Nov. 7, 2014, ruling in Polk County District Court that the IRGC’s decision to grant the gaming license to the Hard Rock and the Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD), was within its scope. 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. The case resulted from a lengthy contract dispute that led to the IRGC’s April 2013 decision to accept bids for the first land-based casino in Woodbury County. Bells’ claims that its right to due process was violated by the IRGC and that several state laws were broken in the process.
In July 2014, the casino was ordered to close by the IRGC after a 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. After the MRHD refused to sign off on an application for license renewal the Argosy’s license lapsed. The decision by the IRGC was upheld by Ovrum and on July 30, 2014, the floating casino was closed, beating the opening of the $128 million Hard Rock in downtown Sioux City by two days.
Since the closing, the Argosy riverboat and on shore accompanying structures have been removed from the Missouri riverfront. An Illinois shipyard purchased the riverboat.