Penn National and Sioux City Finally Come to Agreement - Siouxland News - KMEG 14 and FOX 44

Penn National and Sioux City Finally Come to Agreement


(SIOUX CITY, IA) The fight between Sioux City and Penn National turns ugly in e-mail. The lease between the Argosy casino and the City is set to expire January 31st, which could leave 300 people out of work.

Everyone says they don't want to see 300 people lose their jobs. But dozens of e-mails between Penn and the city paint a picture of a very strained relationship and a ticking clock.

"The City is not looking for significant change here, it fact were not asking for any real change to the economic terms or formulas that are in place," says Sioux City Manager, Paul Eckert.
But what they do want, is a voice to voice conference call with the senior leadership of Penn.
"It's very important that we have Mr. Wilmott and other senior leaders so that the leaderships from both agencies can come together and sort the terms and not have a dance around the issues," says Eckert.
And so begins the long, occasionally vicious, e-mail thread, that started October 16th. Mayor Bob Scott e-mailed Penn's Senior Vice President, Steven Snyder, asking about a lease extension.

Snyder responded, proposing an extension of the current lease thru March 2015. That afternoon, Eckert requested a conference call with managers and lawyers from Penn to talk about it.
"We need to get this resolved, so that the council can have a meeting in mid-December that would meet the state code requirements for urban renewal," says Eckert.
But, Snyder deflected the request, asking instead about possible sites for a land-based casino.

After that, Eckert went over Snyder's head, looping in Penn's lawyer and senior executives, saying "your emails to me today are unproductive. We do not have confidence in email or phone conversations with you."

The following week, Penn's lawyer made it clear "our objective is a lease whose economics do not change... and whose term runs as long as the boat is licensed in its current location."

In the last few days, Penn and the city did finally hammer out a time for a phone conference, but 20 minutes before releasing the emails to the public, Eckert threw in a curveball - requesting "Penn hold Sioux city and its partners in Woodbury county harmless, and compensate us for costs and losses that may result from your actions."
"Whenever you have litigation, there is fees and liability to our residents, all were asking for is that our residents be protected. Again we value our history with Penn National gaming and we value the argosy and we very much value the jobs," says Eckert.

What does that last request mean in plain English? The city wants Penn to offset any lower payments to non-profit groups because of the ongoing litigation.

I also spoke with the Chair of the Missouri River historical development, Mark Monson, today, the non-profit that currently holds the gaming license for the argosy, and he says they have had no contact with the City or Penn concerning the lease extension or past agreement.

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