Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Four Boats Get OK for Gambling Licenses Likely by End of May

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Four Boats Get OK for Gambling Licenses Likely by End of May

Article excerpt

Missouri's on-again, off-again riverboat gambling industry moved toward a Memorial Day opening as the Missouri Gaming Commission on Friday approved four boats for blackjack and poker.

Boats in St. Louis, St. Charles, St. Joseph and the Kansas City suburb of Riverside now will rush to get regulatory approval for a total of some 2,700 workers before opening.

Commission Chairman Robert Wolfson and executive director Thomas Irwin agreed that they could issue licenses by the end of May, provided that applicants pass muster in a preliminary "shakedown cruise."

The commission granted preliminary license approval for:

The Admiral on the St. Louis riverfront, owned by President Riverboat Casinos Inc.

St. Charles Riverfront Station.

St. Joseph Riverboat Partners.

Argosy Gaming Inc.-Riverside.

The approval was bittersweet.

Operators and the communities in which they locate will reap only a fraction of the benefits that would have come through full-scale casino gaming, which includes slot machines.

Riverside Mayor Betty Burch captured the moment when she emerged from the proceedings at the University of Missouri at St. Louis after her city's applicant, Argosy Gaming, had been approved.

"Are we happy?" she asked a colleague.

The answer was yes, and no.

Yes, because the companies, some of which have investments of nearly $60 million, will begin to take in money.

No, because that revenue will be only a part of the cash needed to justify investments made before the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that only blackjack and poker are legal under the state constitution.

All municipal leaders and boat owners present agreed Friday on one point: Partial gambling is better than none at all.

"I'm pretty excited," Burch finally decided. "This is the first hurdle."

Like Burch, almost everyone in the group was looking ahead to moves that would broaden gambling in Missouri, such as the legalization of slot machines.

Voters statewide narrowly rejected that type of riverboat gambling April 5. A measure to put the issue before voters again is pending in the Legislature.

The approval of all four applicants went quickly, with favorable reports from the commission's investigative staff on the financial background of all the applicants. …

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