Beyond the Isle: What Cape's new casino could mean for other businesses

Monday, December 20, 2010
Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger speaks about the Isle of Capri casino that will be built during the First Friday Coffee of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Friday, Dec. 3, 2010 at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

After winning voters over in November and gaining the Missouri Gaming Commission's approval in December, Isle of Capri will begin building its new casino in Cape Girardeau in late spring.

"This project represents one of the largest economic development projects in the history of Cape Girardeau," said Paul Keller, Isle of Capri vice president and chief development officer. "Our goal is to build a showpiece for Southeast Missouri, enhance the historic downtown area and bring hundreds of quality jobs to the community."

Isle is now finishing design work so construction bidding can begin. The realignment of Main Street will be the first step in the construction, expected to take 18 to 24 months, said Jill Haynes, Isle of Capri communications director.

Work on the casino building itself will begin this summer, but site preparation work will start earlier than that, she said. The casino will open in late 2012.

The $125 million casino is expected to have 1,000 slot machines, 28 table games, three restaurants, a lounge and terrace overlooking the Mississippi River and a 750-seat event center.

Southeast Missouri State University's Center for Economic and Business Research recently took a look at the year-and-a-half casino construction period, annual employee spending and new money that would be coming into the economy each year by out-of-town visitors.

Bruce Domazlicky, director of the center, estimated the company's annual payroll, when the casino is running at full operation, to be about $13.14 million. Those employees would have an $8.9 million annual effect on the economy by casino workers paying for housing, groceries, services, entertainment venues and restaurants, he said.

But the two-page study also notes that there would be some "negative offset," specifically by some casino patrons spending money at a casino when they might otherwise have spent it at other Cape Girardeau businesses.

"You can't predict it, but there would be some off-setting," Domazlicky said. "Instead of people spending money on other things, they may spend it at the casino."

Suzanne Dinkens, owner of Glitz on Spanish Street, said she has mixed emotions about the casino development.

"I think it can go either way," she said. "I think if anything, it will help the downtown because it gets people thinking 'downtown'."

Dinkens said she's already met new customers who specifically came downtown to see where the casino will be built and what work has been done so far.

"If the casino weren't coming downtown, they probably wouldn't have had a reason to explore the area," she said.

Jayne Ervin, president of Jayson Jewelers on Themis Street, said she doesn't know how the casino will affect her business, but she hopes it will bring more shoppers to her store.

"I think good things are happening down here," she said. "I think it will open up opportunities for construction jobs and additional revenue, and hopefully because of all those things, we will see increased business from it."

Ervin assumes that the more people come downtown, the more people will see her business.

"I think that's the way it works, but you never know," she said.

Kim Robinson, president of Cup 'N' Cork on Main Street, believes the casino will benefit everyone downtown.

"I like to think that there will be enough business for everyone to have a piece of the pie," she said.

Robinson thinks that when the casino first opens, there will be a drop in downtown business because visitors will want to focus their attention on the casino. But once the've all seen the "latest and greatest" addition to Cape Girardeau, said Robinson, the'll want to spend more time downtown.

"I think it will be an asset to downtown. The physical plant itself, from the drawings and sketches I've seen, will add color and excitement and opportunities for people to come downtown," said Robinson.

She adds that when she visited Las Vegas, she liked spending time in the casinos, but still wanted to get out and see the rest of the area. She believes people who visit the casino here will have the same idea. As for the business owners in downtown Cape Girardeau, Robinson thinks the casino and the added foot traffic it brings will stimulate merchants to make their businesses even better, and maybe even add a little healthy competition.

"They're not going to throw the casino up next week. It's going to take awhile to get the prep work done, but I think everybody can appreciate, when they look at it, what Isle of Capri wants to do for Cape," said Robinson.

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