Gaming commission approves resolution favoring Cape casino license

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Leif Nelson spins the wheel at the roulette table on the gaming floor of the new $135 million Isle of Capri casino Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 during a media tour of the new casino complex in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Isle of Capri is inching closer to opening its Cape Girardeau casino next week after it gained preliminary approval Wednesday from the Missouri Gaming Commission for its casino license.

The commission, which met at Cape Girardeau City Hall following a tour of the $135 million casino complex, approved a resolution stating that Isle Casino Cape Girardeau is suitable to receive a gaming license.

The one-year operating license will not be awarded until opening day, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, pending final inspections and compliance, explained gaming commission chairman Dr. Barrett Hatches.

Before adopting the resolution, the commission heard from Isle executives, commission staff, Mayor Harry Rediger and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. There were no public comments made, although there was an opportunity to do so.

"Our goal has been to build a casino the community can be proud of, to revitalize Cape Girardeau and bring additional gaming revenue to the state," said Isle Cape Girardeau general manager Chet Koch of the 22-month process.

The company exceeded its initial promise to create 450 jobs by hiring 725 people to date, Koch said. Isle received more than 9,000 applications from job seekers. Of the employees hired, 88 percent resided within a 50-mile radius of Cape Girardeau. Minority employees account for 18.76 percent of the casino's total workforce, which is higher than the minority rate of the general population of Cape Girardeau County, 12.8 percent, according to the 2010 census, Koch said.

About 70 percent of all employees hired to date are full-time, he said. About one-third are employed in food service related to the casino's five restaurants.

Isle officials and gaming commission members also discussed the use of minority- and women-owned businesses, as required by statute for casino construction projects.

Sandra Marks, president of Marks & Associates in St. Louis, worked for Isle to recruit minority- and women-owned contractors, which were used on many aspects of construction from plumbing to dry wall, she told commissioners.

As of September, $6.2 million had been spent with minority- and women-owned businesses. Of those businesses, 80 percent were minority-owned and 20 percent were women-owned.

While most of the minority- and women-owned businesses served as subcontractors, one women-owned business, Waterhout Construction Co. of St. Louis, had a direct contract with Isle, Marks said.

"We've been successful in being able to build relationships. We have heard of these contractors doing business in the community together now beyond Isle of Capri," Marks said.

More than 1,600 people were employed as part of the casino's construction.

This is the 14th casino opening Koch has been involved with and he told commissioners he's never seen a community as excited about a casino opening as Cape Girardeau.

Rediger told commissioners Isle has broad community support, with the city's ballot issue to allow gambling passing with 61 percent of the vote in November 2010.

"Interest and excitement has continued to grow," Rediger said.

He told commissioners about improvements to Broadway and North Main Street.

"We have seen a vast improvement to a stagnant area on our north side we are very proud of," he said. "I see a greatly enhanced future of commercial and residential growth. The entire area will be improved in the years ahead."

The city has identified 16 projects it will use its initial casino revenue for, Rediger said. Long-term funding has been split into four categories, including a riverfront development fund, an endowment fund for future city improvements, capital improvements and investments in innovation. Rediger said the city expects an estimated $3 to $4 million in income annually from the casino.

Gaming commission member Jack Merritt suggested newly appointed commission member Diane Howard of Cape Girardeau make the motion to approve the resolution of finding of suitability and licensure for IOC-Cape Girardeau LLC. But Howard, because her appointment was made Tuesday by Gov. Jay Nixon, hadn't yet been confirmed by the Missouri Senate and commission staff advised against it. Howard, a lawyer, agreed it wasn't appropriate, but said she would have liked to have done it.

The motion was made by Suzanne Bocell Bradley and approved unanimously by the other four commissioners.

Howard replaces Noel Shull of Kansas City, whose term had expired, on the five-member commission.

mmiller@semisourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

777 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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