Admiral Getting Ready but Gaming Opponents Planning to Challenge New Law by Weekend

Article excerpt

The President Casino on the Admiral - glistening in the afternoon sun like a giant new silver dollar - crawled with workers and employees Saturday preparing for a dress rehearsal on Wednesday and a grand opening Friday.

"We're going crazy," said sales director Bob O'Brien with a smile.

He soon may be frowning.

Mark Andrews - a businessman in Chesterfield whose Citizens for Life and Liberty led the statewide drive to defeat the gambling amendment in April - said Saturday that his group hopes to challenge the new state law on gambling by next weekend.

Gov. Mel Carnahan signed a bill into law Friday permitting Missouri riverboat casinos to offer craps, video poker and video blackjack.

In January, the state Supreme Court held that only table games of poker and blackjack - "games of skill" - were clearly legal.

The Admiral had planned to open with only table games.

But Saturday morning, workers started carrying in video poker and blackjack machines.

The boat will have 250 electronic games by opening, and hopes to add 300 in a month or so, O'Brien said.

Andrews said: "In effect, the Legislature and governor have said, `The people did vote, but we are going to pass a law that says casinos can still operate with lots of gambling.' They're pushing to expand gambling in Missouri as much as they possibly can, and we'd like to limit it as much as we possibly can."

Another gambling opponent, the Rev. Harold Hendrick of north St. Louis County, said the new law represents "the politicians thumbing their nose at the electorate in favor of big gambling money."

On Saturday, new video poker and blackjack machines were stacked on the Admiral's main deck next to plastic-covered craps tables.

Computer equipment and tokens were being unpacked in the cashier's area.

Three chunky chandeliers - each worth $60,000 - and thousands of tiny white lights twinkled overhead.

In the new glass atrium entry, workers welded, hammered, hung wallpaper and installed two escalators leading to the lower level where a food court, gift shop, lounge and ticket area were taking shape. …