CLINTON — The future of Clinton’s Mississippi Belle II riverboat casino is expected to be decided soon.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission on Thursday will hear a formal request for the approval of an excursion gambling boat license that would facilitate the sale of the boat’s assets to Wild Rose Clinton.

The Mississippi Belle II has been in Clinton since 1991 and was founded by the Kehl family. Wild Rose announced in April its plans to buy the Mississippi Belle II for $46.3 million.

Wild Rose Entertainment is an Iowa-based company that also owns a casino and resort in Emmetsburg. The company is owned by Gary Kirke and Michael Richards. Kirke is described as an entrepreneur with a wide range of business holdings that includes manufacturing, technology, entertainment and hospitality. Richards is a physician, health care executive and investor in several Iowa businesses.

The offer was overwhelmingly approved by MBII employees in the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, said Jamie Buelt, spokeswoman for Wild Rose. She said the designated ESOP trustee is expected to sign the agreement today before the request heads to the IRGC on Thursday.

What probably will not be known is where the new owners hope to set up land-based operations. Belle II officials had been looking to build a land-based casino in Clinton’s west end, but Wild Rose officials said in April when the proposed purchase was announced that they were looking at all possibilities.

Buelt said the future location will not be disclosed on Thursday because the sale of that land to Wild Rose won’t close until the end of the month. Buelt said Wild Rose officials however will broadly talk about the design and amenities.

The MBII sale is expected to occur and close in tandem with the Kehl family’s sale of Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington to Huckleberry LLC, which is headed up by businessman Randy Winegard of Burlington.

The commission on Thursday also will be asked to facilitate the division of the existing Catfish Bend Casinos into separate entities: Catfish Bend Casinos II that would own and operate existing casino operations in Des Moines and Lee counties; and Catfish Bend Riverside that would continue to own an interest in and perform existing management agreements for Washington County Casino Resort.

The Mississippi Belle II employees 300 people. The casino generates more than $5 million in taxes for the city, county and state annually.

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