Caesars Lands Iowa Arena Bid

The Council Bluffs, Iowa, City Council has chosen Caesars Entertainment to take over management of the 8,500-capacity Mid-America Center next summer.

Caesars, which owns Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos in the city, is expected to assume operations July 1 for five years after the current contract with SMG ends, according to the World-Herald News Service. SMG has run the venue since it opened in 2002.

Venue GM Charles Schilling said SMG also entered a bid and is disappointed in the council’s decision.

“SMG proposed better terms than Caesars Entertainment and SMG looked forward to integrating food service with the venue management,” he told Pollstar. “Regardless, the City of Council Bluffs may be one of the first public entities to put a casino in charge of a public venue.

“Meanwhile, we will fulfill our agreement through June 30, 2012, and support the transition in a professional manner.”

A task force began accepting bids in April because Mid-America’s ongoing operating deficit was reported to be as much as $900,000 this year. Caesars’ bid based its fee on how well the facility performs whereas SMG offered a more fixed rate, the World-Herald said.

“A $900,000 deficit on the backs of taxpayers is unacceptable,” council member Lynn Branigan told the paper. “I also have confidence Caesars has the ability to pull in more acts.”

C3 Presents handles talent buying and booking for a number of Caesars Entertainment casinos.

Mid-America Center has competition in the market from the 18,200-capacity CenturyLink Center Omaha, the 16,500-capacity Pinnacle Bank Arena under construction in Lincoln, and a 3,500-capacity venue under construction in nearby Ralston.