Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suburban-Style City Casino Nearing Board's Approval

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suburban-Style City Casino Nearing Board's Approval

Article excerpt

Casino Celebration, a project planned for the northern tip of St. Louis near where the old Chain of Rocks amusement park once stood, could get the Board of Aldermen's blessing this week.

While the 3-year-old effort to develop a casino in the Laclede's Landing neighborhood has generated far more headlines, the northern site gives the city a shot at a suburban-style venue.

The 21 acres have room for plenty of surface parking, with space for future amenities like a hotel. The location, immediately south of the Interstate 270 bridge over the Mississippi River, offers great highway visibility and access.

In short, the site offers the convenience of a suburban mall. City officials have endorsed Casino Celebration, believing that it's far enough from downtown (11 miles) not to cannibalize business from the Admiral or a casino that St. Louis Entertainment Ventures plans to develop next to Laclede's Landing.

Officials also think Casino Celebration could add to the city's tax coffers by intercepting some customers who now patronize Casino St. Charles and the Alton Belle.

"We're not looking to market to downtown tourists," said James Koman, whose Paradox Investments LLC is a 40 percent partner in Casino Celebration. "It's the 270 corridor we're after."

The majority partner is Carnival Hotels & Casinos, half of which is owned by Carnival Corp., the big cruise-ship company. Carnival Hotels & Casinos manages 62 hotels. It helps operate the casinos on Carnival's ships, and runs casinos in the Caribbean and in Peru.

Carnival Hotels & Casinos owns 60 percent of Casino Rouge in Baton Rouge, La., the first riverboat casino that the company has managed. Since it opened in December 1994, it has easily outperformed the competing Belle of Baton Rouge, owned by Argosy Gaming Co.

Carnival recently was selected to develop and manage the first native peoples' casino in Ontario. Casino Rama, an hour north of Toronto, is expected to be a gold mine.

Robert B. Sturges, president of Carnival's gaming division, said the marketing expertise that he and his colleagues developed in the cruise-ship business will enable the company to expand the gaming market here rather than just redivide the existing pie. …

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