Editor's note: The Journal today begins the countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2016 in Siouxland, as chosen by Journal editors. The No. 1 story will be revealed on Dec. 30, and the Journal's annual Newsmaker of the Year will be named on Dec. 31.
SIOUX CITY | One long legal battle between the former Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino and state gambling regulators and the casino's former local partner ended in 2016.
Another one involving the long-gone casino likely has begun.
In May, the Iowa Supreme Court denied the Belle of Sioux City's request to review an Iowa Court of Appeals ruling that upheld previous rulings that led to the casino's closure. Belle, the Argosy's Iowa-based operator, had challenged the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's actions denying the company a license renewal and instead awarding it to the Missouri River Historical Development partnership that led to the construction and opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in downtown Sioux City.
The Iowa Court of Appeals had earlier ruled that the Argosy's incomplete gambling license renewal applications with the IRGC in 2012 and 2013 did not trigger protections spelled out in Iowa law and that the IRGC's subsequent actions to deny the Belle of Sioux City, a subsidiary of Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming Co., the nation's largest gaming operator, a gaming license and award a license to another applicant did not violate the Belle's right to due process.
The supreme court's ruling calmed the legal waters, but not for long.
In November, Community Action Agency of Siouxland sued the Argosy's former owners in Woodbury County District Court for nearly $2 million in revenue-sharing payments that were withheld from MRHD for distribution to charities. The agency is seeking the money on behalf of itself and as many as 54 other nonprofit agencies that in the past have received grants from MRHD, the state-licensed nonprofit gaming group that distributed a portion of the casino's gambling profits to dozens of area organizations.
Penn stopped making payments -- 3 percent of the Sioux City boat's adjusted gross revenues -- to MRHD for 16 months before the Argosy's July 2014 closure.
Also still pending is a breach of contract lawsuit Penn filed in 2012 in Polk County District Court in which it claimed that MRHD schemed to replace the Argosy with another operator before their contract expired. MRHD has countersued.