SIOUX CITY | A Polk County District Court judge has denied the city of Sioux City's bid to take part in a court hearing Thursday involving the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City's state gaming license.
In a ruling Tuesday, District Court Judge Eliza Ovrom said the city's request is "outside the scope" of the Iowa Supreme Court's limited remand of the case to the lower court.
A panel of three Supreme Court justices on Jan. 9 ordered the district court to reconsider its decision to stay the license the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission issued to the Hard Rock group in April until the Argosy Sioux City's lawsuit seeking to overturn the IRGC decision is resolved.
The Supreme Court kept in place a temporary stay of District Court Judge's Robert Hanson's Dec. 10 ruling, and instructed the district court to determine if it had the authority or jurisdiction to suspend the Hard Rock license while Hard Rock developer SCE Partners was not a party to the case.
Citing the large public investment in the Hard Rock venue under construction downtown, the city on Jan. 16 filed an emergency request to also present evidence at Thursday's hearing in Des Moines, where Ovrom is set to hear oral arguments from attorneys from SCE Partners, the IRGC and Argosy parent Penn National Ganming Co.
In a Jan. 20 filing, attorneys for Argosy objected to the city's inclusion, arguing the district court lacks the jurisdiction to address the request.
In her decision Tuesday, Ovrum said the "short time frame given to consider the issues on the limited remand weighs against adding other issues and parties" to Thursday's hearing.
The Supreme Court set a Feb. 15 deadline for Ovrom to render a new ruling.
In her ruling Tuesday, Ovrom noted the city's "late application" to participate in a hearing over the temporary stay of the Hard Rock license, which Argosy requested on Sept. 16, 2013.
"The city did not seek to intervene until after a hearing was held, a decision issued, an interlocutory appeal filed and the matter was sent back on limited remand. This does not weigh in favor of allowing the city to participate in the remand hearing," Ovrom wrote.
Argosy attorneys argued it would be "highly inequitable" and an "affront to the judicial process" to let the city intervene in a lawsuit it filed against the IRGC nearly 18 months ago.
The judge set a March 7 hearing in Des Moines to consider the city's motion to intervene in the case.
Penn, the nation's second-largest gaming operator, owns the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino, which is scheduled to be dislodged by the Hard Rock upon its opening next summer.
The city has pledged $22 million in tax-increment financing to help pay for parking and other infrastructure for the Hard Rock venue at Third and Water streets. So far, $11 million had been paid to the developer.
Repayment of the city's long-term debt for the project is contingent on increased property tax valuation of the Hard Rock property. SCE has agreed to a minimum $51 million assessment, effective Jan. 1, 2015.
The city has also handed over several city-owned parcels and alleys for the project, torn up and replaced streets and alleys, and removed and relocated public utilities.