Paul Keller, senior vice president and chief development officer with Isle of Capri, spoke with about 25 people, including restaurant and retail store owners, at Buckner Brewing Co. The meeting was one of a series to share information about the casino development with the community. Keller also spoke to the Cape Girardeau Rotary Club on Monday afternoon at the Show Me Center.
After asking several questions about the casino site and construction plans, some people spoke out in favor of the casino project.
"For us not to take advantage of this is crazy," said Ed Alvey, president of Interstate Document Solutions, which has a showroom on Broadway. "We should be flattered that we have this opportunity."
Alvey said he lived in Memphis, Tenn., at the time Tunica, Miss., was being developed and saw the improvements casinos brought to that area.
"Crime actually goes down when you have a casino because you've got more money for police, more lights and more people downtown," he said.
Charles Bertrand, owner of Spanish Street Mercantile, said he supports the proposed casino development, too.
"This is our best and maybe our last opportunity to see Cape Girardeau grow," Bertrand said. He previously lived in Texas, not far from Shreveport, La., where he said the downtown was transformed within a few years of riverboat casinos coming to town.
Isle of Capri and the city of Cape Girardeau are working out the details of a proposed development agreement in which the casino developer will help fund downtown beautification projects starting with upgrades to Broadway. The agreement will be discussed at the city council's meeting Sept. 7, Keller said.
While the majority of merchants at the meeting responded positively to Isle of Capri's plans, some were concerned the $125 million casino would lure away employees from existing businesses by offering higher wages and better benefits.
"I'd love to offer my employees benefits, but there's no way I could afford it," said Hunter Clark, owner of Broussard's Cajun Cuisine. Clark said he didn't feel negative about the casino development but was concerned about how it could affect his business.
Keller said Isle of Capri may work out an agreement with local restaurants in which points players earn at the casino could be redeemed for meals outside the casino. Clark said he was interested in learning more about how the program might bring him additional business.
With federal health care legislation now requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance, however, Clark said he feels the requirement caps his business' potential to grow.
Keller said Isle of Capri will conduct a wage survey in the area before determining what employees at the new casino would be paid.
"It's in our own economic interest to keep our wages at market levels," Keller said.
Most full-time positions would average between $25,000 and $35,000 per year, he said.
Keller said the company's employees would increase traffic at local restaurants as they look for places to eat and drink after their shifts.
Strict employment requirements at Isle of Capri also may deter some from working there, he said.
"It's a little of a hassle to work for us," Keller said.
Employees in many positions must obtain a license, they are also subject to a background check, drug test and are required to wear a uniform. Their schedules also include shifts at odd hours, he said.
132 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO