The companies and cities competing for the state’s last casino license made their cases Wednesday to the Missouri Gaming Commission in Jefferson City; except one of them was missing. At the last minute, the group behind a proposal for a casino in North St. Louis County announced they would not present.
“We didn’t know they weren’t going to show up until late yesterday afternoon,” Chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission James Mathewson.
The Commission was sent this letter Tuesday, saying the group wouldn’t present their proposal at the Commission meeting in Jefferson City. The group said it needed more time to get its proposal together, or would need to withdraw its application.
“They’re out as far as I’m concerned. I mean they chose, and it was their choice, not ours; they chose not to be here. They sent us a letter saying they were not going to be here and didn’t want to be, you know, basically. So they chose to pull out, we didn’t,” Mathewson said.
Mathewson says he’s not sure if the group’s $50,000 dollar application fee will be refunded or not.
Mathewson says he was impressed by the presentations of the three remaining proposals. That includes one by the Isle of Capri for Cape Girardeau, Casino Celebration for St. Louis, and a proposal by Paragon Gaming for Sugar Creek.
But while the casino companies and cities are wondering the “who’s”, “what’s” and “where’s” of the destination of the state’s last casino license, Mathewson is also considering “how”… and “if”.
“The law is very clear to me on the 13th license. It says you can’t have more than 13 casinos in Missouri. It doesn’t say you have to have 13 casinos and I’ve said that for the last two months,” Mathewson said.
Mathewson voiced his concerns to the groups behind the proposals about their funding sources, and wanted to make sure the funding was secure enough that it wouldn’t be pulled before their projects would be complete. He says he still has major concerns about the financial industry as a whole, pointing to the example of a billion dollar bank in Mid-Missouri that just failed last week.
“Every day there’s some big financial institution that has problems. I think that’s a serious concern and I want to make darn sure if we’re going to issue that 13th license the financial situation is clear in all five commissioners’ minds before we vote,” Mathewson said.
At the meeting, he asked each of the groups behind the proposals about their funding and wanted to make sure there was no way it could fall through, or fall short.
“I’m not satisfied with anyone’s financial statements, including my own. I think that is a heck of a question and I think that our staff and people that we trust are going to dig deep into those financial arrangements because that’s just a must,” Mathewson said.
He says the commission has hired a couple of consultants for that purpose. He says the former IRS agents will do thorough searches of the finances for each of the proposals.
We asked St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who was in Jefferson City in support of the remaining St. Louis proposal, what he thinks about the possibility of the casino license not being re-issued.
“I think there is an opportunity that will be missed for the state and the commission if they decide not to do that, but that’s certainly their decision,” Slay said.
Mathewson says they plan to decide by the end of the year which proposal is granted the license, or whether it’s none of them at all.