Boonville casino averages 5,300 gamblers a day

Saturday, December 15, 2001

BOONVILLE, Mo. -- Missouri's newest casino hosted an average of almost 5,300 gamblers a day during its first week in operation.

Debut day for Isle of Capri's casino drew nearly as many gamblers, 8,194, as there are residents in Boonville, population 8,202.

Despite traffic clogs along Boonville's narrow Main Street, city police said they had no casino-related wrecks during the Isle of Capri's debut week. There were a few arrests for minor offenses such as fighting, police said.

A total of 37,092 gamblers came through the turnstiles at Isle of Capri between its Dec. 6 opening and Thursday, casino spokeswoman Traci Stiles said Friday.

"It was good. We had expected a lot of people and the number of patrons has exceeded our expectations," Stiles said.

Executives of Isle of Capri, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Miss., have projected hosting 1.5 million gamblers a year. If the casino sustains its opening-week numbers, the annual turnout would reach 1.9 million.

Marc Falcone, an analyst in New York who tracks Isle of Capri's performance for the investment house Bear Stearns, said Friday that the opening-week numbers were "about what you would expect for a new property, given their location."

"The future performance will depend on their marketing program," especially targeted toward attracting daytime gamblers, Falcone said.

Most on opening day

Stiles said the heaviest attendance came on the casino's opening day, when 8,194 gamblers stepped onto the barge-in-a-moat during its first 15 hours in business.

Stiles said most gamblers came from within Isle of Capri's target market area, a 50-mile radius of Boonville with a population of more than 300,000. Isle of Capri-Boonville is the first casino between the St. Louis and Kansas City markets.

The city of Boonville and the state of Missouri each reap $1 for every person entering the casino's gambling floor. That means each entity will receive a minimum of about $37,000 for Isle of Capri's opening week.

The amounts could be higher because some gamblers stay longer than each two-hour gambling session -- known as a "cruise," even though the barge doesn't budge from its moat near the Missouri River. The casino pays $2 per head for each gambler during a two-hour session even if they are holdovers from the earlier session, Stiles said.

Tracy Walkup, the city administrator, said "a lot of Boonville folks have visited the casino more than once, including me."

Police Capt. Don Smith said the casino's debut day tangled traffic, "but it is leveling off and we've had no wrecks at all."

He said a couple who had visited the casino later came to the downtown area, and callers to police suggested they were publicly intoxicated. Police took one of them into custody after discovering an outstanding bad-check warrant from Morgan County, Smith said.

Two other women were held by casino security and later turned over to police for allegedly fighting on the casino parking lot.

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