Penn files motion to stop Hard Rock construction

2013-09-16T22:30:00Z 2014-12-10T18:36:14Z Penn files motion to stop Hard Rock constructionDAVE DREESZEN ddreeszen@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
September 16, 2013 10:30 pm  • 

DES MOINES | The owner of the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino asked a state judge Monday to halt work on the proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Lawyers for Argosy parent Penn National Gaming Co. filed a motion in Polk County District Court, asking to stay development of the Hard Rock project, under construction in downtown Sioux City, until Penn's litigation against the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is resolved.

Work began in July on the Hard Rock, a $128.5 million gaming and entertainment complex designed around the historic Battery Building at Third and Water streets.

IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko declined comment Monday. Sioux City Entertainment President Bill Warner, who heads the Hard Rock development, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In May, Penn went to court to vacate or reverse the IRGC's April 18 decision to award a state gaming license to Sioux City Entertainment and its nonprofit partner, Missouri River Historical Development.

In a split vote, the commission picked the Hard Rock group over three other land-based proposals, including a choice of an urban or rural location for a Hollywood-themed casino.

In its petition for judicial review, Penn claims the IRGC violated the company's constitutional protections, state and federal laws and the agency's own rules. The company also alleges the panel ignored a series of deficiencies and improprieties in the Hard Rock group's license application.

Penn also wants a judge to review two actions by the IRGC last year, one that put the license up for bid in the first place, and another in which the commission declined to ratify a temporary contract extension signed by Argosy and its then-partner MRHD.

In August, the IRGC affirmed its intention to have the Argosy to close upon completion of the Hard Rock venue, which is scheduled for late next summer.

After MRHD's contract with Penn expired in July 2012, the IRGC allowed the floating casino, which employs more than 300, to remain open under what's known as "operation of law." At its meeting last month, the commission formally denied Argosy's application for a standard, one-year renewal of its state license.

Penn is also contesting that ruling.

"If the IRGC is going to truly provide a fair hearing and process regarding the illegal revocation of Argosy's license, then it should be a logical step to temporarily stop the Hard Rock Casino project from moving forward," Penn said in a statement Monday. "Any other action would result in a sham of a proceeding for the Argosy."

In a brief filed in support of its motion Monday, lawyers for Penn argued the company is likely to prevail in its judicial review case. At the conclusion of the case, however, Argosy may be "effectively precluded" from obtaining an injunction that would require the IRGC to revoke the Hard Rock license and renew the Argosy license, the company said in the brief.

"At the that point, with a newly completed facility to tout, The IRGC, SCE, MRHD and other affected parties surely will vigorously argue that equitable considerations such as harm to the "public" skew so sharply against any relief that would require the closure of Hard Rock Sioux City that such relief should not be issued, thus leaving the (Argosy) with no remedy at all," the company said in the brief.

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