Isle of Capri contributes $50,000 for Cape Girardeau casino yes vote campaign

Sunday, October 17, 2010
In this file photo, Jim Riley of Dream Big LLC, flanked by other members of the Yes for Gaming committee, speaks at a campaign kickoff event to support a proposed Cape Girardeau casino Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. The committee recently received $50,000 from the Isle of Capri casino company. (Melissa Miller)

By Scott Moyers

Southeast Missourian

Isle of Capri is gambling with house money, pouring $50,000 into the campaign coffers of the committee trying to convince Cape Girardeau voters to approve a $120 million casino in the Nov. 2 election.

Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. donated $50,000 to the campaign committee Yes for Gaming, according to a quarterly campaign report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The only other donation to the committee was $4,000 from Jim Riley and David Knight's Dream Big LLC. Riley and Knight are the Cape Girardeau businessmen who own property where the casino is proposed for North Main Street.

Yes for Gaming treasurer Danny Essner said the money is being used for advertising, organizational materials and to pay the committee's two full-time employees.

Isle of Capri defended the donation, saying the money will be used to persuade voters that a casino would be beneficial, bringing in new jobs, tax revenue and tourism dollars.

"Isle is committed to the voters of Cape Girardeau receiving the information they need to vote yes on Nov. 2," said Isle of Capri spokeswoman Jill Haynes.

Meanwhile, Quality of Life in Cape Girardeau, the anti-gaming committee, reported $5,095 in donations during the same period. The largest contribution was $800. The group got two $500 contributions and one for $250. The rest were smaller than $100, which do not have to be listed individually, according to finance disclosure rules.

Doug Austin, who heads the opposition group, said he was not shocked about the amount that Isle of Capri donated. But he said it looks as if the company is trying to buy the election.

"It reeks to the high heavens," Austin said. "Our money is coming from the citizens of Cape Girardeau, not the gambling industry. Fifty thousand dollars boggles my mind. It shows what kind of money they have available with money that they got from people losing in their casinos."

Melvin Gateley, the treasurer for Quality of Life, said his organization is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to buying advertising, yard signs and fliers.

"I'm sorry to see it, but I knew it was coming," Gateley said. "But we're just going to be ourselves and keep doing our grassroots work and let people know what we think a casino would do to this community."

This week brings a big step for all four companies that want to capture Missouri's 13th gaming license. The Missouri Gaming Commission on Thursday will be hearing from those companies, including Isle of Capri, in Jefferson City. The companies and community leaders will be giving one-hour presentations to the commission.

If voters do approve the casino measure next month, it will leave Cape Girardeau in the running, along with two proposed for the St. Louis area and one in Sugar Creek near Kansas City. The commission has said it expects to make a decision by Thanksgiving.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

North Main Street & Mill Street, Cape Girardeau MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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