Missouri Gaming Commission OKs changes in casino ownership, told quick Lumiere sale likely | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gaming Commission OKs changes in casino ownership, told quick Lumiere sale likely

Jul 24, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Missouri Gaming Commission has unanimously approved Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.'s acquisition of a rival gaming company, Ameristar, which currently operates two casinos in Missouri, including one in St. Charles.

With that acquisition, Pinnacle expands its presence in the state. The gaming firm will operate four casinos in the state, twice what it operates now.

The commission voted 4-0 today to approve the purchase in a meeting at a hotel near Lambert Field, following two hours of closed-door deliberations.

Commission chairman Barrett Hatches said in a statement after the vote, “The commission has conducted a thorough investigation, and we gathered information from many sources. Our final step was to listen to input from the public. We feel confident our actions are in the best interest of the state of Missouri.”

Pinnacle also told the commission that it had several prospective buyers for Lumiere Place hotel and casino complex in downtown St. Louis. The Federal Trade Commission mandated the sale because otherwise Pinnacle would own three of the region’s four casinos.

The commission has to conduct a background check and approve any buyer of Lumiere. A commission spokeswoman said that Pinnacle indicated that the sale could take place within weeks.

St. Louis officials have said that the sales contract requires Lumiere's new owner to fulfill the remaining parts of an agreement in which Pinnacle agreed to spend close to $20 million (in property and money) for various development projects downtown, including improvements to the Arch grounds.

The agreement, completed late last year, also calls for the casino owner to subsidize extra police stationed around the Lumiere property for five years.

A spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said in a recent interview that most of the money and property already has been distributed.

Pinnacle’s presentation to the Commission primarily focused on the newly acquired casinos in St. Charles and Kansas City, a commission spokeswoman said. Pinnacle also owns River City in Lemay.

Pinnacle recently interviewed prospective workers to fill about 30 vacant jobs at Lumiere.

The hirings, and the expected sale, come as Pinnacle is highlighting the recent honor bestowed on Lumiere’s Four Seasons Hotel, which was voted No. 4 on Travel + Leisure magazine’s Top 50 list of “Best Large City Hotels in the United States.”

The Four Seasons – Missouri’s only five-star hotel -- also was listed as No. 83 on the publication’s survey of top hotels in the world.

Business at all of Missouri's casino operations has, overall, been flat or shown only a slight increase during the past couple years.