Isle of Capri seeks to buy Caruthersville casino

Monday, March 19, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. said Monday it has agreed to buy Casino Aztar in southeast Missouri for about $45 million from an affiliate of Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp.

The deal still needs to be approved, but the development could be welcome news for the Missouri Bootheel town of Caruthersville, which was hard hit by a tornado last spring and where the casino employs about 300.

St. Louis-based Isle of Capri does not anticipate any layoffs in Caruthersville, said spokeswoman Jill Haynes.

The Missouri Gaming Commission voted in November to take over Casino Aztar until a new owner could be found, a decision criticized by Attorney General Jay Nixon because he believed it conflicted with the commission's regulatory duties.

Commission director Gene McNary defended the unusual move at the time, saying it was needed to save the jobs and $6 million in fees and taxes the casino pays.

The casino's previous owner, Phoenix-based Aztar Corp., was sold to Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based Columbia Sussex. But that company could not find and license a buyer for the Caruthersville casino acceptable to the commission by a Nov. 19 deadline. So the commission appointed the state's gaming enforcement manager to run the casino for up to nine months.

The Gaming Commission didn't actually begin overseeing the casino until early January, after the sale was finalized.

The Nasdaq Stock Market said last week it could delist the Isle of Capri because the casino company has to restate its earning for three years. Haynes said the restatement primarily relates to operations of a subsidiary in the United Kingdom.

The company also missed a March 9 filing deadline for submitting a quarterly financial report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Company officials said they plan to request a hearing before the exchange's Listing Qualifications Panel. In the meantime, Isle of Capri will be allowed to continue trading on Nasdaq exchange.

Isle of Capri operates 13 casinos in Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and Kansas City and Boonville, Mo. Isle of Capri stock was at $24.69, down 10 cents, in morning trading.

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On the Net: Isle of Capri: http://www.isleofcapricasino.com/

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