The Missouri Gaming Commission wasn't set up to run the casinos it regulates, but a special case has been made for Casino Aztar in Caruthersville, Mo., and it appears there are several winners.
Aztar Corp.'s assets, which included several casinos around the country, were sold last year for $2.75 billion. The buyer, Columbia Sussex, did not meet Missouri's licensing requirements, which meant the Caruthersville operation might have to shut down until a suitable buyer was found.
But that would have meant putting 284 employees out of work. And both the state and local economies would have been hard hit.
In an unusual arrangement, the gaming commission decided to keep the casino open and put a Missouri State Highway Patrol veteran, Clarence Greeno, in charge.
The result has been a seamless operation. The casino employees still have their jobs, with an annual payroll of $7.6 million. Caruthersville continues to take in about $1 million a year from the casino, plus sales-tax revenue collected from the 1,000 visitors a day. And the state is still getting several million dollars a year from the Aztar operation.
The commission is negotiating with several prospective owners of the casino. Under new ownership, the casino is expected to get some updating, which could draw more visitors -- and more revenue for the local and state economies.