The Albatross

St. Louis has a long and tortured history with the Admiral, home of the President Casino, but the city is about to gamble another $3 million to keep it afloat. It's a risky bet.

Needless to say, the project is being supported by the St. Louis County Council and County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall because it would benefit St. Louis County.

What St. Louis officials worry about, though, was detailed in a May 2 letter to the commission from Harmon. "We are asking the Commission to recognize that as goes the President, goes the City of St. Louis and goes the State of Missouri," Harmon wrote. "The backers of the Lemay application may see some short-term benefits if it is approved. However, these benefits will be more than outweighed by the disastrous long-term ramifications. The President's economic viability is essential if the City of St. Louis is going to successfully battle the plethora of problems facing all older urban areas. If we are not able to win this battle in the City of St. Louis, our neighbors may find the problems spreading in their own backyards."

State Sen. William "Lacy" Clay (D-St. Louis) sponsored an amendment during the legislative session that would have, if passed, required the commission to give priority to casino proposals in counties that do not have any casinos. "The Admiral is the only boat in the city, and they're struggling now," Clay says. "If a new boat goes to South County, it will just take more of their customers away, and the city will be hurt as a result."

But Clay's amendment didn't make the law books, and the commission is still evaluating the prospects. Says Harold Bailey, the commission's spokesman: "We consider each one in terms of what would be in the best interest of the state."

Schafersman, at times, has fantasized about moving his office into the pilothouse, long abandoned and gutted since the engines were removed years ago from the boat. He will oversee the boat's relocation this year, a move designed to resuscitate the Admiral one more time.

It will be the closest to piloting the boat that Schafersman will ever come.

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