Casino plan

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two Cape Girardeau businessmen have been working behind the scenes since the 1990s, buying properties in downtown Cape Girardeau and dreaming one day of bringing a casino, a hotel and related development to downtown.

Since earlier this year, Ameristar and Pinnacle Entertainment, two of the largest casino operators in Missouri, have led a petition drive to get an initiative on the November ballot that would impose a ban on new casinos in the state, thereby eliminating future competition and repealing the $500 individual loss limit currently imposed on Missouri's gamblers. In return, the tax on casino profits would increase to 21 percent from the current 20 percent. The initiative is being called the "Schools First Elementary and Secondary Education Funding Initiative."

Last week, the Missouri Gaming Commission voted to impose a statewide freeze on new riverboat applications until voters have their say. The ballot measure is being checked by election officials to see if petitioners collected enough signatures.

David Knight and Jim Riley, the two Cape Girardeau businessmen, have put a lot of energy into this project. But they knew going in that government regulations would be a major factor. In the end, though, it will be up to voters statewide to determine if it's a good idea to eliminate competition and the individual loss limits.

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