Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Lumire Place Owner Hopes to Win Back Customers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Lumire Place Owner Hopes to Win Back Customers

Article excerpt

Jeff Babinski, the boss at Lumire Place, has a goal: Win back business that began slipping away when River City, the Lemay area- based casino, opened in 2010.

At the time, Pinnacle Entertainment owned both casinos. That changed April 1 when Tropicana Entertainment plunked down $260 million cash to buy Lumire Place and its two hotels, including the luxury Four Seasons.

Tropicana, whose chairman is billionaire investor Carl Icahn, got Lumire Place for a forced-sale price related to Pinnacle's $2.8 billion purchase last year of Ameristar Casinos. Before they would approve the deal, federal antitrust watchdogs required Pinnacle to sell a casino project in Louisiana and, in the St. Louis market, either River City or Lumire Place.

Pinnacle chose to ditch Lumire Place to acquire Ameristar, which includes the market-leading Ameristar casino in St. Charles.

Enter Babinski, who spent 14 years with Pinnacle and knows the St. Louis casino market. As Lumire's vice president and general manager, a job he took in 2010, he oversees 1,200 employees.

Babinski considers the area's five other gambling halls as competition but singles out River City, which upped its game last year by opening a hotel meant to turn day-trippers into overnight partiers and two-day gamblers.

In April 2010, River City had revenue of $13 million while Lumire Place pulled in $17.5 million, according to the Missouri Gaming Commission. In April 2014, River City's revenue was $17.5 million while Lumire Place took in $11.1 million. Babinski wants that money back.

"If we can recapture even some of that revenue ... I think that will be success for us," he said in an interview this week.

The task might be difficult, given the difficulties in the St. Louis and other regional gaming markets, according to a new report by RubinBrown, an accounting and business consulting firm.

Nationally, gaming revenue rebounded from the recession and hit a record $66.3 billion last year, said the report, written by analysts Daniel Holmes and Brandon Loeschner of the firm's office in Clayton.

St. Louis remains a billion-dollar gaming market but dropped two spots, to seventh, among the nation's commercial gaming markets, the report found.

Despite the 2012 opening of the Isle of Capri Casino in Cape Girardeau, statewide gaming revenue dipped 3.5 percent last year, to $1.71 billion. The Kansas City market, which has casinos in Missouri and Kansas, is holding steady with about $778 million in annual revenue. But the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, opened in 2012, is taking business from the KC market's Missouri casinos.

Illinois gaming revenue fell last year to $1.55 billion, even though Chicago remains the nation's third-largest casino market, with $2.1 billion in revenue, including nearby casinos in Indiana. The 10,000 video lottery terminals brought online last year at bars and restaurants across Illinois helped reduce casino patronage by 10 percent, RubinBrown found. …

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