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Cape Girardeau selected for final Mo. casino license

The Missouri Gaming Commission has selected Cape Girardeau as the new site for the state's 13th casino license.

Commissioner Jim Mathewson said that Cape Girardeau "made a good presentation" and "had lots of support from the community."

Mathewson also cited "oversaturation of the market" when asked why St. Louis was not awarded the license.

(Updates have been made to this story below)

  Cape Girardeau has been picked to receive Missouri's 13th casino license, which became available when the President Casino in St. Louis went out of business earlier this year.

The commission's vote was unanimous to accept the Isle of Capri's proposal to build a resort in Cape Girardeau, the only contending city that doesn't have a casino. Mayor Harry Rediger calls the decision a game changer for his town.

"Not only with the revenue, but with the predicted one million visitors into our old town Cape area," Rediger said. "We're very excited about that."

The $125 million project will be built north of downtown Cape Girardeau, and is expected to create 450 permanent jobs.

Commission Chairman James Mathewson says concerns over market saturation played a role in St. Louis not being chosen.

"That market (is) already well-covered...at least I felt like maybe that market was already saturated," Mathewson told reporters during a break in the commission meeting.

When asked if that was also the case for the Kansas City market, he replied, "Well, same situation."

Mathewson cited concerns that the proposed resort in the town of Sugar Creek, just east of Kansas City, would not be able to compete with a mega-casino resort being developed across the state line in Kansas.

Cape Girardeau's backers have argued that a resort in their town would be able to draw customers from a six-state area. The license won't be formally awarded until the resort is complete. It's expected to open in late 2012.

St. Louis officials, meanwhile, are not happy with today's decision. Rodney Crimm is Executive Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation.

"This license should have stayed in the city," Crimm said. "This was an opportunity to bring 600 permanent jobs to an area that desperately needs them, as well as provide $30 million in tax revenues to the state and $11 million to the city."

Crimm says St. Louis lost 200 jobs and $2 million in tax revenues when the President Casino closed earlier this year. He would not say if any legal action is being planned, only that they're, "digesting what was presented today."

Two companies wanting to build in the St. Louis area had applied for the license, though only one, Casino Celebration, made a formal presentation to the Missouri Gaming Commission back in October.

Update 10:32 AM:

And here's more from the Associated Press:

Isle of Capri has proposed building a $125 million facility on the Mississippi near downtown Cape Girardeau. It was selected over two competitors. Casino Celebration proposed a $132 million casino in St. Louis, and Paragon Gaming sought to build a $107 million casino in Sugar Creek near Kansas City. Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger called the decision a "game changer" for the city.

Will continue to update.

Update 11:00am: Great Rivers Greenway executive director Susan Trautman says the agency has the funding it needs to purchase the 11.82 acres of land from Casino Celebration, but will need funding to make planned improvements.

Here's information about the agreement from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August:

And if the casino project doesn't win a license, or otherwise fall through, Casino Celebration will sell the 11.8 acres it owns on the site to GRG so it can then make improvements itself. Susan Trautman, Great Rivers' executive director, said that either way, the deal guarantees public access to the riverfront and the bike trail forever. "We have been working hard for this to be a good thing no matter the outcome (of the casino project)," she said.

Update, 11:40 am:

In a statement, the Koman family, which would have developed Casino Celebration, says it believes its proposal was the best for the state but "respects the decision of the commission. The Koman family has a strong development history in St. Louis and we look forward to other opportunities."

We will continue to update this story.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.