The Missouri Gaming Commission expects to make a decision on the state’s last casino license by the end of the year. The groups behind each of the three proposals have made their case, in person, as to why they believe they’d be the best choice.
At a Missouri Gaming Commission meeting, Steve Galloway with Gaming Market Advisors said a casino in untapped Cape Girardeau makes the most sense. He says because the other two proposals are in cities with many casinos, business will be taken away from the other Missouri casinos in that area should one of them be granted the license.
“Cape, should it be awarded the license, will have minimal cannibalization on Missouri casinos, and there’s a slight overlap with the Harrah’s Casino, but that’s in Illinois so that’s OK,” Galloway said.
“Our closest casino is actually in Illinois, Harrah’s metropolis. The next closest is our own casino in Caruthersville, which is a full 85 miles away. The next casino beyond that it River City in the South County, St. Louis area,” said Paul Keller with Isle of Capri, which is behind the proposal.
The group behind the Sugar Creek presentation says it’s not “cannibalism,” it’s competition.
“Kansas City is not saturated, it’s stagnant. Healthy competition raises the bar and stimulates capital reinvestment by all serious players,” said John Groom with Paragon Gaming, which is behind the Sugar Creek plan.
“The other casinos need to make certain that they use their dollars very carefully so that they don’t lose their customers to new casinos. But that you just see an increase in revenue, because as the new casinos come on they bring something new to the market. They enhance the market and they bring on new customers to the market,” said Diana Bennett with Paragon Gaming.
They want to grow the market in Eastern Jackson County, outside downtown Kansas City. Paragon says its long-term plan is to create a destination complete with a 6,500-seat amphitheatre and 400-room hotel.
The group behind the proposal for Celebration Casino in St. Louis says it’s not trying to be Harrah’s. The says the casino will be the right size to get the most out of the market in an area where six casinos would all be within a 35 minute drive of the new one.
But most importantly, they say, their numbers show they could bring in the most new tax revenue among the other three proposals up for the state’s last casino license.
“The combination of the ability to grow our market and the ability to take market share from Illinois will be a demonstrably better opportunity for the state than any other you’ve seen before you today,” said Greg Smith, the attorney for the group behind the Casino Celebration proposal.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says he fully supports the proposal, and says it will prey on the turnstiles of Illinois casinos.
“Approving the license for Casino Celebration would achieve the gaming license directive, we believe, of issuing the license to the project that provides the greatest economic benefit to the state of Missouri, and I know that’s what you’re concerned about,” Slay said.
There were a number of other factors that were discussed about each proposal.
Cape Girardeau city leaders answered concerns about traffic flow to the proposed casino, saying they’d provide the commission with more information about their plan, which they say would handle the increased traffic. The city manager showed pictures of the mostly blighted area where the casino would be located, and the mayor stressed the importance of the casino to the future of downtown Cape. He also said he felt confident the casino would be allowed by the citizens when they vote on a special ballot issue on November 2nd.
Paragon Gaming spent a good portion of their presentation introducing their company to the commission, as they weren’t as familiar to the state as the Isle of Capri and the regional investors involved with Casino Celebration.
A member of an environmental group made a presentation during the St. Louis proposal’s allotted time, to address concerns for the riverfront near the proposed site. She said the proposal includes money that will be used to create walking paths in that area and protect the environmental assets.
In their closing statements, before making their final pleas, some of the presenters recognized the value of all three proposals.
“I don’t envy you, gentlemen. You’ve got three great communities that all have very deserving people who need this for their community. For the people to have jobs, for their schools. I don’t envy you at all,” Bennett said.
“There are similarities between these projects. They represent a relatively, the same capital investment, I think within about $10 million of one another. They represent relatively the same amount of construction jobs and the same amount of operational jobs, not surprisingly because they’re relatively similar in size,” Smith said.
For more on the presentations, see our previous story.