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Mo. regulators choose Cape Girardeau for casino

Isle of Capri Casino
Artist rendering of the Isle of Capri Casino resort in Cape Girardeau, slated to open in late 2012.

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio


Jefferson City, Mo. – Cape Girardeau has been picked to receive Missouri's 13th casino license, which became available when the President Casino in St. Louis went out of business earlier this year.

The commission's vote was unanimous to accept the Isle of Capri's proposal to build a resort in Cape Girardeau, the only contending city that doesn't have a casino. Mayor Harry Rediger calls the decision a game changer for his town.

"Not only with the revenue, but with the predicted one million visitors into our old town Cape area," Rediger said. "We're very excited about that."

The $125 million project will be built north of downtown Cape Girardeau, and is expected to create 450 permanent jobs.

Commission Chairman James Mathewson says concerns over market saturation played a role in St. Louis not being chosen.

"That market (is) already well-covered...at least I felt like maybe that market was already saturated," Mathewson told reporters during a break in the commission meeting.

When asked if that was also the case for the Kansas City market, he replied, "Well, same situation."

Mathewson cited concerns that the proposed resort in the town of Sugar Creek, just east of Kansas City, would not be able to compete with a mega-casino resort being developed across the state line in Kansas.

Cape Girardeau's backers have argued that a resort in their town would be able to draw customers from a six-state area. The license won't be formally awarded until the resort is complete. It's expected to open in late 2012.

St. Louis officials, meanwhile, are not happy with today's decision. Rodney Crimm is Executive Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation.

"This license should have stayed in the city," Crimm said. "This was an opportunity to bring 600 permanent jobs to an area that desperately needs them, as well as provide $30 million in tax revenues to the state and $11 million to the city."

Crimm says St. Louis lost 200 jobs and $2 million in tax revenues when the President Casino closed earlier this year. He would not say if any legal action is being planned, only that they're, "digesting what was presented today."

Two companies wanting to build in the St. Louis area had applied for the license, though only one, Casino Celebration, made a formal presentation to the Missouri Gaming Commission back in October.


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