The Missouri Gaming Commission on Wednesday gathered opinions from those who support and oppose a proposed casino in Sugar Creek.


The five-member commission will decide on whether Sugar Creek should get the state’s remaining casino license.

The Missouri Gaming Commission on Wednesday gathered opinions from those who support and oppose a proposed casino in Sugar Creek.

The five-member commission will decide whether Sugar Creek should get the state’s remaining casino license. The commission held the public meeting at the Mike Onka Memorial Building.

Currently, there are 12 licenses that have been issued in the state. State law caps the number of licenses to 13. But nothing in the law says there must be 13.

Four applications in four cities are in the running for the license that will allow a casino to be built. The cities are Sugar Creek, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau and Spanish Lake, Mo., which is near St. Louis.

The commission hopes to decide by the end of November, said commission chairman James Mathewson.

Proponents

 Jack O’Renick, the mayor of Sugar Creek from 1981 to 1993, said the city took a major economic hit when the Amoco oil refinery shut down in 1982.

“I know what it is to sit there and watch the blood leak out of a community,” he said. “Our quality of life has not been same since that happened. It’s almost impossible in this day and age to attract a business in a small community that would replace the refinery that we had here.”

O’Renick said the casino would “help tremendously” in regaining the city’s economy. “It would bring back stability,” O’Renick said.

Supporter Bill Hamman said the existing Kansas City casinos are not in a good geographical area to serve Eastern Jackson County. The Sugar Creek casino will be. “There’s a market in the Eastern Jackson County area that has been untouched,” Hamman said. Sugar Creek Mayor Stanley Salva, who supports the project, has said the same thing.

Eastern Jackson County has exploded in growth, said Jack Gant, a former Jackson County Judge and state senator who grew up in Sugar Creek. “I know it would be very successful,” Gant said, who has served on the gaming commission.

Pat Casey, Sugar Creek’s deputy fire chief, said the casino has “unanimous support” from citizens. Casey talks with residents daily.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders told commissioners St. Louis already has five active casinos to Kansas City’s three. “We ask for equity,” Sanders said. “That certainly represents the needs of the state.”And then Sanders took aim at Cape Girardeau. “They don’t enjoy the broad, universal support that we have here in Jackson County.”

State Rep. Ray Salva, born and raised in Sugar Creek and now representing the town in the General Assembly, said the governor has called for job creation in economically distressed areas. “Believe me, this is an economically distressed area,” Salva said. “This meets the governor’s call. This area has been hit very hard with a loss of jobs.”

The casino will add approximately 1,000 jobs, according to documents from the developer.

Salva said the area has the highest unemployment rate of any place in Missouri.

Bill Dunn, of J.E. Dunn Construction, told commissioners the company has built millions of dollars of casinos in Missouri and across America.

In the last several months, Dunn has worked with Paragon Gaming Missouri LLC, the corporation based in Las Vegas, Nev., that submitted the application for the casino.

“This project is well laid out,” Dunn said. “It’s going to be a very effective money generator for the state.”

Opponents

Troy Stremming, of Ameristar Casinos Inc., said the Kansas City casino market is “saturated.”

He based that on an impact study that the company conducted.
A benchmark in determining an appropriate market supply for casinos in an area is the ratio of adults to gaming positions, Stremming said. Kansas City’s is 130 adults for every gaming position.

A destination casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., broke ground in April. It is scheduled to open in 2012.

That casino will decrease the ratio to 102 adults to one gaming position, Stremming said. If a Sugar Creek casino opens, the ratio will be 93 to one.

“This ratio will not only be the lowest ratio in Missouri but it would one of the lowest in the country when it comes to regional gaming markets,” said Stremming, adding that Chicago’s is 291 to one, Detroit’s is 222 to one, St. Louis’s is 207 to one.

Ameristar opposes issuing a gaming license in the Kansas City market.

Additional state tax revenue from the casino would be marginal, he said.

Because of the already saturated gaming market in Kansas City, 81 percent of gaming revenues for the proposed Sugar Creek casino would come from existing Kansas City casinos.

“The new revenue potential has to exist and cannot cannibalize existing gaming operations,” said Vincent Gauthier, director of the port authority of Kansas City. The port authority is the landlord of the Isle of Capri casino in Kansas City. It’s important to protect existing Kansas City casinos, Gauthier said. Isle of Capri submitted the application for the Cape Girardeau casino.

The Sugar Creek casino will only generate $5.6 million in incremental tax revenue to the state as compared to $24 million in incremental tax revenues from the Cape Girardeau site, Stremming said. The best choice is the Cape site, Ameristar has said.

LaVonne Spicer, president of the Cedar Crest, Swearingen, Farview Concerned Citizens that has fought Sugar Creek city hall over allowing Lafarge North America to mine a new area near Elm Grove Elementary School, told commissioners about the struggle the group has had with Sugar Creek administration over not allowing further mining.

“They (officials) have not done a good job monitoring the mining company,” Spicer said. “If the city cannot handle an underground mining operation, how can they possibly handle a huge casino above ground? We feel they are not worthy of this privilege.”

Spicer’s group is not against the casino or gambling.