Cape Girardeau casino opens for business

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger throws the first dice at the craps table Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Isle of Capri in Cape Girardeau. The $135 million casino opened to the public Tuesday morning. (Laura Simon)

The smile on Jami Carter's face couldn't have been bigger as she pressed a button to set a screen spinning that put the first slot machine in play at the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau on Tuesday morning.

Carter, of Chaffee, Mo., won the opportunity to play the first slot in the casino's Facebook contest. She and hundreds of others poured onto the gaming floor after an opening ceremony and ribbon cutting.

"We are blessed to live in a country where dreams are still possible," said Jim Riley, one of the founders of Dream Big, LLC, which worked to recruit Isle to Cape Girardeau and sold much of the property for the 23-acre development on North Main Street.

"Dreams can come true. They come in all sizes and I recommend big ones."

When Missouri's 13th and last casino license became available in spring 2010, Riley, partner David Knight, Mayor Harry Rediger and other city officials began to pursue a casino development. Voters approved riverboat gambling in November 2010 and construction on the casino complex began four months later.

Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Roger Stottlemyre presented Isle Cape Girardeau General Manager Chet Koch with the casino's gaming license before the ribbon-cutting to formally give the go ahead for the facility to open.

Riley said he hoped Cape Girardeau would leverage Isle's $135 million investment into the community to keep improvements and momentum going.

"This can serve as a catalyst for our community," he said.

It didn't take long for the nearly 59,000 square-foot gaming floor to fill up as players took seats at slot machines, rolled dice or placed bets at gaming tables.

Mayor Harry Rediger took the first roll of the dice at a craps table shortly after the casino opened its doors. Along with local residents, the event drew people from Augusta, Ga., Little Rock, Ark., Murphysboro, Ill and Paducah, Ky.

Glenda Banks of Paducah waited in line outside more than an hour to play the slots.

"I think this will give Harrah's (in Metropolis, Ill.) some competition. It looks beautiful and it's bigger," she said.

Southeast Missouri State University student Jordon Hale came to play roulette before heading to class.

"I get tired of driving to St. Louis to go to the casinos all the time," he said. "I'm hoping to win some of my money back now."

Another Southeast student, David Nickelson, was working as a bartender Tuesday. He was attracted to Isle's benefits package including tuition reimbursement and health insurance. He hopes to work his way through school to earn an accounting agree.

Isle of Capri president and CEO Virginia McDowell said shortly before the ribbon cutting that more than 80 percent of the casino's 700-plus employees live within a 50-mile radius. Some employees relocated to Cape Girardeau for the job.

Susan Salters and her husband, both poker dealers moved to Cape Girardeau after working for a casino in Evansville, Ind. Her mother and sister also got jobs at Isle. Settling into their new hometown, Salters and her family have been gearing up for Tuesday's opening and the chance to meet new people.

"It's amazing. It's so fun. You get to see so many different personalities. We get to know them. You sit down. You just talk," said Salters, who dealt poker for three-and-a-half years in Indiana.

Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, a 137,000-square-foot facility, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the exception of 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesdays. It features nearly 1,000 slot machines, 28 table games, four restaurants and a 750-seat events center.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

777 N. Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

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