Hard Rock Themed Casino Gaining Support in Sioux City

The Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, left, and the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, remain popular destinations for visitors to the Gulf Coast. The gaming indistry has been key to the ecomonic rebirth of the Mississippi Coast in the four years since Hurricane Katrina. (John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald)


By Liz Blood

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A nonprofit group that jointly holds a casino license in Woodbury County will join forces with a Las Vegas company to develop a $100 million Hard Rock-themed casino and entertainment center in downtown Sioux City.

The Missouri River Historical Development board on Wednesday agreed to back a proposal from Warner Gaming, the Sioux City Journal reported.

The project, called Hard Rock Casino Sioux City, would be developed by Sioux City Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Gaming, which owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and properties around the country.

The deal is contingent upon the nonprofit group and Sioux City Entertainment securing a gambling license. The complex would employ over 500 people.

"This facility will become a destination for people around the country with an exciting entertainment and amenities," said Mark Monson, the president of the Missouri River Historical Development board.

Mayor Bob Scott said the city is prepared the support the project.

Earlier this year, the state regulatory board decided to replace the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino docked on the Missouri River with a land-based casino. The racing commission put Woodbury County's license up for bid after months of failed talks on a new long-term deal between Argosy's owner, Penn National Gaming Inc., and the nonprofit group.

So far, no other bids for a land casino have been submitted. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is scheduled to award the license in April.

The Missouri River Historical Development and Sioux City Entertainment jointly hold the riverboat's license.

Before negotiating its deal, the nonprofit group considered proposals from other developers, including Penn and Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development corporation for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Penn has offered to invest up to $100 million in a downtown Sioux City casino. But last month, it filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the nonprofit group. Penn also is seeking a court order to prevent the nonprofit group from a joint application to state regulators with another operator.

"We are surprised at the recent announcement by MRHD of their partnership with Hard Rock, given that we presented a new proposal to the MRHD board on Sept. 27, yet never received a response from the organization in reaction to that proposal," Karen Bailey, Penn's director of public affairs, said in a statement late Wednesday.

Penn claims the nonprofit group is bound by a contract extension signed in June. The deal, which would have run through March 31, 2015, was rejected by the racing commission. The nonprofit group claims the extension is null and void because the state board didn't approve it.

If Sioux City Entertainment is awarded the license, construction could begin by next summer, said developer President Bill Warner. He said the casino could open in the summer or fall 2014.

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