By Bruce Tegg
LEMAY—Missourians are bracing for a new era of super-casinos commencing March 2010 with the opening of River City Casino and Hotel, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., in South St. Louis County.
The River City Casino is the first mega-complex in Missouri and costs an estimated $380 million. Its scheduled opening puts it behind its original opening schedule. Las Vegas-based Pinnacle owns and operates casinos in Nevada, Louisiana, Indiana, and Argentina, besides its Missouri holdings.
Pinnacle previously struggled with the Indiana Gaming Commission when the Pinnacle-owned Belterra Casino was given a $2.26 million fine and forced to close for more than two days. Commission documents revealed in June of 2001 as many as 12 women, referred to as “hookers,” being flown in on a Pinnacle-leased jet to “entertain” guests. Guests attended a private golf event and two nights of parties by special invitation from Pinnacle officials under the watchful eye of casino cameras. The guest list for the event has yet to be revealed.
On Sept. 14, another super-casino complex, the $350 million Riverview Casino, in North St. Louis County near Spanish Lake, sailed past another hurdle on its way to eventual construction. The Riverview Casino, proposed by the North County Development LLC (NCD), is designed to include 377 acres of gambling, a hotel, theater, spa and pool, golf course, a convention center, a myriad of bars and restaurants, and a five-turbine wind farm. This newest mega-casino will perch between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers north of Interstate 270 and east of Riverview Drive. This location is immediately south of the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, a 4,318-acre protected wildlife preserve.
Missourians can remember previous “bait and switch” tactics used by the gambling industry and state lawmakers, setting different expectations in the beginning of the gambling era. On Nov. 3, 1992, voters approved the gambling referendum by a 63 percent majority. Original ballot language read:
“Authorizes riverboat gambling excursions on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, regulated by the State Tourism Commission. Excursions may originate where locally approved by the voters. Five-hundred dollar maximum loss limit per person per excursion. The proposal is intended to produce increased General Revenue.”
The deception was executed by making the text of the amendment different from the text of the ballot language. The amendment defined “gambling excursion” as “the time during which gambling games may be operated on an excursion gambling boat whether docked or during a cruise. Gambling games may be continuously operated on an excursion gambling boat which is continuously docked.” (Missouri Session Laws, 1991, H. B. 149, § A(§ 1), adopted by referendum, eff. Nov. 3, 1992.)
Missourians may also recall the recent cap placed on the number of state gaming licenses allowed in the state; all 13 of those have been issued. What paves the way for a new mega-casino in North St. Louis County? Pinnacle Entertainment is facing a Coast Guard inspection in July 2010 expected to decertify the Admiral riverboat, host to the President Casino, from carrying passengers if the boat’s hull is not repaired or replaced.
According to the Missouri Gaming Commission, once the President Casino is defunct, its gaming license will become available and Pinnacle must fall in line with other bidders. According to Jack Godfrey, Pinnacle’s executive vice president and general counsel, Pinnacle would not surrender its gaming license or relocate the President. Should the license come up for a bid, one group who will not be in the bidding line is NCD. They plan on using a yet to be named third-party operator to run their proposed casino. The outcome of this course of action has yet to be determined.
Even the title of NCD appears to be deceptive. In recent news NCD was introduced as a North St. Louis County-based organization whose listed principals were: Brad Lakin of Lakin Chapman LLC: his wife, Hallie; Argo Products Co. Businessman Kenneth Goldstein; and Julie McDonald, a real estate investor. Edward J. Griesedieck III, an attorney with Herzog Crebs LLP, was mentioned as only representing NCD.
Documents on file with the State of Missouri before Jan. 17, 2008, show NCD was first registered Feb. 22, 2002, not as North County Development LLC but Camco Development LLC. The original articles of organization available on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website show Griesedieck as the organizer and bears his signature.
Griesedieck has been a partner in the law firm of Herzog Crebs since 1990. He is listed as a present-day judge for the North St. Louis County Village of Bellefontaine Neighbors, presiding since 1992. Griesedieck also serves on the Board of Directors, Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis.
In another document filed Sept. 2, 2005, signed by “Manager” Kenneth W. Goldstein on Aug. 4, 2005, Griesedieck remained the registered agent. The address was moved from Griesedieck’s old private residence to his new private residence at 5 Indian Creek Lane, in West St. Louis County. He did not use his office address at Herzog Crebs. Griesedieck is listed as representing 24 businesses including Pinnacle Land Development LLC.
Almost six years after its inception, a third document filed Jan. 17, 2008, shows a change in the organization name from Camco Development, LLC (based in Wood River, Ill.) to North County Development LLC. This third document is signed by Kenneth W. Goldstein, now listing him as a “Member” and by Hallie Lakin, also a “Member,” on Jan. 9, 2008.
Research consistently shows casinos take more resources out of a community than they invest. A report by the Employee Assistance Program at the University of Texas indicated approximately $14 billion is lost per year in productivity by businesses and industries through absenteeism, wasted time, poor work performance, loss of income, criminal acts, accidents, and medical treatments due to gambling and gambling-related problems.
Howard Dayton in “Gambling: Don’t Bet Your Life,” a document found on LifeWay’s website, said a Christian should recognize gambling is wrong because it: is often connected with other vices, such as prostitution and drugs; is always associated with get-rich-quick motives (see Prov. 28:22); discourages work (see Gen. 3:19); often will offend a brother or sister in Christ (see 1 Cor. 8:11-12); and manifests a heart of greed and love of money, which Scripture says is the root of all evil.” (“Those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Tim. 6:9).