Give Ameristar Casinos its due. It came to the same conclusions, two months ago, that the Missouri Department of Economic Development now offers regarding a new casino in the state.

Give Ameristar Casinos its due. It came to the same conclusions, two months ago, that the Missouri Department of Economic Development now offers regarding a new casino in the state.

The upshot: Cape Girardeau, not Sugar Creek, seems poised to get a state license when the Missouri Gaming Commission meets Wednesday.

In this space several weeks ago, I chided Ameristar for presuming to do the state’s work for it with a study of its own. The company said its study in late September suggested Cape Girardeau – not Kansas City or St. Louis, where Ameristar happens to have locations – would be the best place to award the state’s 13th and last license. It would take less business from other Missouri casinos and therefore create more net new jobs and, crucially, bring the state more new revenue.

Is that a logical conclusion, supported by the data, or is it self-serving, or is it both? Whatever the case, one key state office substantially agrees in its assessment of the three plans – Paragon Gaming in Sugar Creek, Casino Celebration in St. Louis and Isle of Capri in Cape Girardeau – still in the running.

“In all three scenarios, Isle of Capri–Cape Girardeau generated the highest net new casino revenue and gaming taxes, new employment, and, overall Gross Domestic Product. ... (O)nly Isle of Capri is far enough from existing Missouri casinos to minimize cannibalization,” writes the Department of Economic Development in a report released last Friday.

And the Sugar Creek plan?

“Paragon was third in all scenarios due to the large amount of cannibalization it would have on existing Missouri casinos clustered in Kansas City,” the department writes. “Current gaming facilities and the Paragon location are all within five miles of competitors. ... The Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway will open in 2012 and compete strongly for gaming revenue throughout the Kansas City Metro.”

Ameristar argues the Kansas City market is crowded and getting worse, and that’s hurting casino operators. The Department of Economic Development echoes that, too, pointing out that the area’s four casinos are in their second straight year of declining revenues and revenue growth has averaged just 0.18 percent over the last five years. In fact, St. Louis has overtaken Kansas City in total revenues. Kansas City casinos are getting more money per gambler, but that’s not enough to offset a 9.5 percent drop in admissions in the last five years.

The state report does hint at Ameristar’s stake in this. It’s still the big dog in the Kansas City market, with 34 percent of revenues. But No. 3 Argosy Riverside, with 27 percent of the market, has almost pulled even with Harrah’s North Kansas City (28 percent) in recent years, and most of Argosy’s gains have come at the expense of Ameristar. The No. 4 player is Isle of Capri Kansas City, with 11 percent.

Sugar Creek has been after a casino for years, and it keeps getting cuffed around by the state. Two years ago, the industry got the voters to agree to the 13-license cap, shutting out plans at that time for Sugar Creek. Then this year, a casino in St. Louis closed and surrendered its license, opening a once-in-who-knows-how-long opportunity. Here comes Sugar Creek again, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much of a sympathetic ear from the state.