Gaming commissioner says Isle of Capri will be under scrutiny

Friday, December 3, 2010

The head of the Missouri Gaming Commission has a message for Isle of Capri: They will be watching.

The commission that regulates all gambling in Missouri will be closely monitoring Isle of Capri as it builds the $125 million casino over the next two years to make sure the company delivers on its promises, chairman Jim Mathewson said Thursday.

"You can assure the people down there we're not going to look at it once in a while. We're going to live with it," Mathewson said from his office in Sedalia, Mo. "The first time they put a bulldozer on the site, we'll know about it."

Once construction begins in earnest this summer, the commission will send staff members to the site on a regular basis, monitor finances and hold a public hearing in Jefferson City to look at the design, Mathewson said. It will all culminate in a commission walk-through a few days before the casino opens. That's when the commission will vote on whether to award the actual casino license, Mathewson said.

"We're going to be tracking it all the way through until they open," Mathewson said. "One of our guys told me yesterday that he may as well plan to move to Cape Girardeau."

Commission spokeswoman LeAnn McCarthy said the design hearing will be held in Jefferson City within the next few months. The commission will make sure the design reflects what was presented initially, she said. The commission's investigators will also continue to scrutinize the financial health of the company as well, McCarthy said.

"It will be Isle of Capri's continuous responsibility to demonstrate suitability," she said. "They've demonstrated suitability up to now, but they have to continue to do so."

But those at Isle and their supporters say they aren't worried about the scrutiny of the commission. Isle has been through the process before in other states and Missouri specifically when it built casinos in Boonville, Caruthersville and Kansas City, said Isle senior vice president and chief development officer Paul Keller.

"We've been to this rodeo, so we know what they want," Keller said. "The main thing is just keeping them informed of everything you do all the time. If you do that, they're pretty good to work with."

Keller expects a smooth process, saying the company fully intends to adhere to its plans and keep its word. It's been his experience, he said, that the commission is pretty nonintrusive.

"As long as you're doing what you've promised, they really let you go to work," he said. "I don't foresee anything they're involved with slowing us down."

Mayor Harry Rediger said he had no concerns about Isle of Capri's intent to do what it has said. Isle and the commission have worked together before, he said.

"It should be a smooth bid-out and process," Rediger said. "I don't foresee any problems."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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