(SIOUX CITY, IA) - The nasty battle over gambling rights in Woodbury County has some innocent bystanders worried. Those bystanders are the area's non profit groups who've been getting a share of the gambling revenue for years to continue their good works.
After losing its bid to build a new casino, Penn National Gaming, the owner of the Argosy Casino has already launched a lawsuit.
Now it's asking a judge to appoint a third party "receiver" to oversee a share of the profits that's been going to Missouri River Historical Development for years. MRHD, which holds the gambling license collects about $1.8 million every year from the Argosy. That money is then awarded to local non-profits.
While gamblers pour money out of their wallets in hopes of putting more back in, the Missouri River Historical Development has the ability to hold onto three percent of the casino's revenue and give it back to the community. But, Penn wants a third party to step in and take over now. "Personally it's none of Penn's business how we deal with our funding. We are a qualified sponsoring organization. We have done very well with the funds that we've received and may in fact look like a third party telling us what to do," said MRHD President Mark Monson. Penn says MRHD isn't completely using the money for what it's intended to do. So by using a third party, Penn hopes it will do it right. "And the fact is that right now a lot of those funds are being diverted to their legal war chest and to potentially even the development of the Hard Rock Casino. Meanwhile, these dollars are intended for community organizations," said Penn National Gaming spokesperson Karen Bailey.
Since 1994, MRHD has handed out almost $21 million to Woodbury County non-profits and governmental bodies through annual grants, gifts and special projects.
Then there's the argument over a contract between Penn and MRHD. "Penn's side of the story is that there's been a contract signed pure and simple. So we believe that the IRGC was an error in not accepting that contract simply because it was signed. It was signed by both MRHD and by Penn National," said Bailey. "We have a contract under operation of law which was directed by the racing and gaming commission. So we are under contract, but by operation of law," said Monson. All of this back-and-forth bickering could put community organizations in limbo. "We honestly feel like we just need to ride it all out and see how it's going all to work its way out and be confident that the right thing will happen," said Food Bank of Siouxland Executive Director Linda Scheid.
MRHD has received a check from Penn Gaming on the 10th of each month. Tuesday was the 11th and at that time there was no check.
All of this comes as MRHD prepares to hand out another round of grants and gifts in July. Grants and gifts that are supposed to total $250,000.