River City value
3:08 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Pinnacle, St. Louis County Settle On Value Of River City Casino

St. Louis County and Pinnacle Entertainment have settled a dispute over how much the River City Casino in south St. Louis County has been worth for the past three years.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, county assessor Jake Zimmerman determined that River City, in Lemay, was worth about $270 million. The casino disputed that number, and in August 2011, a county board that hears tax cases  reduced that number to $160 million, before ultimately reversing itself and restoring the $270 million value.

Today's settlement sets the combined real estate and personal property values for River City at $235 million in 2010, $248 million in 2011, and $235 million in 2012. That means a tax bill this year of about $7.5 million.

Zimmerman, the assessor, says he believes that if Pinnacle sold the casino, a buyer would pay about $270 million. But he says the decision to settle provides certainty to the school and fire protection districts in Lemay.

"If we had taken this to the State Tax Commission, and if we had ultimately lost, we would be talking about a multi-million-dollar hit to public services in South County," Zimmerman said.

Dr. Kevin Carl, the superintendent of the Hancock Place School District, says the lower value on the settlement means River City  overpaid taxes in 2010. The county Department of Revenue will withhold about $600,000 from a tax bill sometime next year, but Carl says the district knew that was a possibility and budgeted accordingly. And he says state law allows Hancock Place to boost its tax rate to make up that amount in the future.

The settlement does not extend beyond 2012, but Zimmerman says he does not expect the casino to pick a fight over its valuation next year.

"I think you'll find that the casino will see a similar valuation in the year ahead, and I'm cautiously optimistic that this is the beginning of them going back to being a good neighbor in South County and them paying their fair share," he said.

But Zimmerman said the county isn't any closer to settling a similar tax dispute with the Harrah's casino in Maryland Heights. Penn National Gaming purchased the facility in May for $610 million, and the conversion to a Hollywood-branded casino will be completed by Nov. 1.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann