New St. Charles casino joins nation's largest

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- For the past five years, whenever Beverly Johnson crossed the Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River and into this St. Louis suburb, she was struck with one sight: "Gaudy concrete staring me in the face."

As of Tuesday, the St. Charles resident has something else to look at.

Five years after the riverfront casino's original owner abandoned a massive expansion, Ameristar Casinos Inc. completed a $360 million project on the idle "gaudy concrete" and was scheduled to open what's now the largest casino in the state at 10 p.m.

"We're pleased that Ameristar not only fulfilled their promise to St. Charles, but exceeded it," said Mayor Patti York.

The 130,000 square foot complex, which includes one of the ten largest gaming floors in the nation, increases the gaming capacity at the casino by 80 percent. It now boasts 3,300 slot and video poker machines, 95 table games and a live poker room, one of only two in St. Louis, said general manager Tony Raymon.

Ameristar hopes to eventually add a hotel to the complex, but has not yet committed to any design plans.

The original gaming space at the casino closed at 1 a.m. Tuesday, beginning a 21 hour period where the casino was closed to gamblers while Ameristar made the transition into the new space. Kevin Mullally, the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, signed off on the addition Tuesday morning, granting Ameristar a new gaming license.

"It was a smooth transition from the existing complex to the new one," said Gordon Kanofsky, Ameristar's executive vice president. "

Connected by a brick 'streetscape' that's reminiscent of St. Charles' quaint downtown, the addition includes an oyster bar, a jazz club and other restaurants and entertainment venues. Marked by a bright marquee on the streetscape, the gaming floor itself floats in a stationary basin tub, complying with Missouri's riverboat gambling law.

Ameristar hopes to sell the old casino space and "sail" it on the river to its new owner.

Among the changes on the new gambling floor is the elimination of coins from most of the 3,300 slot and video poker machines. Winners will now receive tickets, called Quickets, they can cash in or take to a different machine for play.

For traditionalists, Ameristar has kept a bank of slot machines that will continue to dispense coins.

Ameristar purchased the casino, along with a property in Kansas City, from Station Casinos in December 2000 for $475 million. Station had spent $170 million on the addition before abandoning the project prior to the sale.

With 1,800 employees now working at the casino, York said Ameristar is officially the city's largest employer.

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