Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City, Villa Gain Big in Lease Deal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City, Villa Gain Big in Lease Deal

Article excerpt

It took a year of political debate and three months of legal wrangling, but the issue of a riverfront gambling lease for Floyd Warmann has moved to the past tense.

And the winners are:

The city.

Aldermanic President Thomas A. Villa.

Alderman Jack Garvey, the attorney for Villa and other aldermen who fought Warmann and, at times, Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. to get the money.

On Monday, Villa and company wrung $15 million out of the lease, a payment above and beyond what Warmann - or Argosy Gaming Co., which plans to buy the lease from Warmann for $41.8 million - will pay the city for infrastructure work and in payments from the casino's net gaming profit.

The city will get $7.5 million the day a casino opens and then $1.5 million for each of the five years thereafter.

"It's an excellent deal for the city," said Steve Schneider, an analyst for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. "The city now is dealing from a position of real strength. And it just injected $15 million into the equation."

Dennis Judd, a political scientist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said the deal also firmed up other commitments from Warmann. Judd was referring to locking Warmann, Argosy or any other company using the lease into paying the city 7 percent of its gaming profits and at least $25 million for infrastructure work, such as sidewalks.

"What's real nice about this settlement is that it names figures," Judd said. "When dealing in this industry, it's best to have things very specific."

George Wendel, a political scientist from St. Louis University, said that from a political perch, Villa has positioned himself "as a major force in St. Louis politics."

"Villa, and Jack Garvey and the other aldermen are to be applauded," Wendel said. "They took the risks with the lawsuit and ended up getting a much better deal for the city. …

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