Polk County, Iowa District Court Judge Eliza Ovrom recently ruled Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, waited too long to join Penn National Gaming’s lawsuit against the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Ovrom said the tribe could have filed its own lawsuit but that deadline passed long ago. “Given that Ho-Chunk was well aware of the IRGC action at the time it was taken in April 2013, this application to intervene is an attempt to make an end run around the Iowa Administrative Procedures Act,” Ovrom wrote.
Ho-Chunk had proposed a $122 million Warrior Casino and Hotel in downtown Sioux City, but the IRGC awarded the gaming license to SCE Partners, whose $128.5 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will open in August. That action led to a lawsuit from Penn National who claimed the selection process was flawed. Penn National had submitted two proposals that also were rejected.
Ho-Chunk Chief Executive Officer Lance Morgan said the tribe is considering appealing the judge’s decision. He said it “doesn’t strike me as extremely fair,” since the Sioux City government and SCE Partners were allowed to join Penn National’s lawsuit, even though they did not meet the deadline.
Meanwhile, federal bankruptcy Judge Richard E. Fehling denied Penn National’s request for an emergency injunction to keep the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino open beyond July 1. Penn National’s Iowa subsidiary, Belle of Sioux City LP, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.
Penn National hoped to keep the riverboat open until its lawsuit against the IRGC is resolved. Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers said the company will file an injunction request in Iowa courts.