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Isle of Capri to buy state-run casino in Caruthersville


St. Louis, MO – St. Louis-based Isle of Capri casinos said Monday morning it plans to buy the Casino Aztar in the Bootheel town of Caruthersville.

The Aztar is the casino that the state Gaming Commission took over last year as a way to avoid closing it. That raised questions from critics like Attorney General Jay Nixon about whether a regulator should get into the business it regulates.

Isle will pay about $45 million for the casino, which will be the second Isle casino in Missouri (the other is in Boonville).

The gaming commission generally regulates Missouri's gambling boats. But it voted in November to take over the Casino Aztar until a new owner could be found.

The casino's owner was sold to another company, Columbia Sussex Corp. of Fort Mitchell, Ky. But that company could not find and license a buyer for the Caruthersville boat acceptable to the commission by a Nov. 19 deadline.

So the commission appointed the state's gaming enforcement manager to run the casino for up to nine months.

Commission director Gene McNary defended the unusual move, saying it was needed to save 300 jobs and $6 million in fees and taxes the casino pays. Caruthersville also suffered when a tornado ripped through town last spring.

The Gaming Commission didn't actually begin overseeing the casino until early January, after the sale was finalized.


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