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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If President Casino Craps Out, What Happens to Its Gaming License?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 11:28 AM

Last year Missouri voters narrowly approved Proposition A. The ballot initiative repealed loss limits for the state's gamblers, taxed casinos for the benefit of schools, and capped the number of gaming licenses issued by the state at 13. 

Not only did the loss limit measure turn out to be a boon for St. Louis' casinos (an Illinois smoking ban didn't hurt either), it made the gaming licenses into a commodity infinitely more precious than a pile of poker chips.

Now, with all 13 licenses currently accounted for (thanks to a new casino under construction in Lemay), both Casino operators eager for an opportunity to expand in Missouri and government officials hungry for tax dollars are keeping a close watch on the fate of the President Casino in the Admiral Riverboat.

Yesterday, the state's gaming commission urged that Pinnacle Entertainment (the Vegas-based company that also owns Lumiere Place next door) close the rickety riverboat and free-up its gaming license for use elsewhere. The boat, they said is hemorrhaging money--to the tune of $160,000 per quarter-- and it no longer provides significant tax revenue.

But where, oh where, would the President's gaming license go?
There are several options:
  • Pinnacle wants to build or buy a new barge to replace the Admiral. They claim this could be in place by July, 2010, when the Admiral's safety certification expires.
  • The President could continue to remain open as is or with some repairs.
  • Pinnacle Entertainment has a location north of the Chain of Rocks bridge on the Mississippi River. Pinnacle's attorney called this location "irrelevant" to the discussion about the President.
  • The boat could close and a new casino could be built elsewhere in the state.
According to a report in this morning's Post-Dispatch, that last option is favored by the Gaming Comission:

Under the recommendation, the state would deny the casino owner's proposal to move a new barge to St. Louis next year to replace the aging boat. Instead, the license would be put up for bids and the state would seek a more lucrative development, at a location to be determined later.

Where would that location be? How about right next to the pristine wetlands of the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area?

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