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Good morning from Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, site of this morning's Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission meeting
The meetings starts at 8:30 a.m. IRGC agenda has two items related to the future of casino gambling in Woodbury County
First up, the five-member panel will decide what to do with 30-month contract extension for Argosy Sioux City riverboat
IRGC also will set timeline for application process for land-based casinos in Woodbury
Argosy's owner, Penn National filed legal action last week to try to reverse IRGC June vote to put license up for bid
A judge will determine if the IRGC followed proper procedures, rules in making its decision.
IRGC gavels into session.
IRGC formally elects Jeff Lamberti as commission chair and Greg Seyfer as vice chair. Ex-chair term ended two months ago
Lamberti is a Des Moines area attorney and former state legislator
At June IRGC meeting, Penn tried unsuccessfully to replace MRHD with its own new nonprofit group
The next morning, Penn signed a previous contract offer from MRHD that would extend their deal through March 31, 2015
IRGC is not expected to accept an extension of that length, given it's desire to open up the license for bids
IRGC may agree to modified contract that would run through the end of the current one-year gaming license next spring
Iowa is the only state with legalized gaming that requires a casino operator to partner with a local nonprofit group
Penn's current operating agreement with MRHD, which has covered 20-year period, was set to expire last Saturday
Expiring deal raised fears boat would close, putting 325 local casino jobs at jeopardy
IRGC has made it clear they have no intention of forcing the @ArgosyCasinoIA to close
If the IRGC limits duration of extension, Penn, MRHD likely will be given some time to accept new terms
To clarify, Penn and MRHD would have to accept or reject IRGC motion to reduce duration of contract extension
If either party would reject a modified deal, fears over the floating casino closing could arise again
Penn-MRHD contract extension now up for debate
MRHD attorney Curtis Beason addressing commission
Penn attorney Carl Sottosanti urges IRGC to approve contract through March 31, 2015
Beason said MRHD board has accepted extension either through March 31, 2013 or March 31, 2015
IRGC chair Jeff Lamberti describes March 31, 2015 as "somewhat arbitrary"
Lamberti asks both Penn, MRHD if they would extend operating agreement instead to March 31, 2013
Carl Sottosanti resists Lamberti request, says longer term extension better "protects' all the parties
Penn VP Steve Snyder says Lambert's proposal would make April 1, 2013 "somewhat arbitrary date"
Pressed repeatedly by commissioners, Snyder says Penn will not accept 3-31-13 contract ending date
Lamberti assures Penn that will IRGC will keep boat open past March 31, 2013 without longer contract extension
"We intend to keep that facility open until a new land-based facility is ready," Lamberti said.
IRGC unanimously approves contract extension through March 31, 2013
IRGC vote means that Penn will have to enter into extension with MRHD recognizing that date
If Penn doesn't accept contract with March 31, 2013 end date, it won't be "in compliance with Iowa law," Lamberti said
Prior to IRGC vote, Penn officials said 3-31-13 date would create more uncertainty for its Argosy workers
Sottosanti: June was the highest month for employee turnover ever; cited continued controversy over contract