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June 01, 2005 - The Missouri Gaming Commission gave initial approval last week to a casino in Lemay, paving the way for construction this summer.

The commission unanimously approved Pinnacle Entertainment's request for a permanent dock at the former National Lead site in Lemay. Pinnacle also received preliminary approval on the proposed design of the $300 million entertainment complex.

"This is great news. This means that it is going to happen," County Executive Charlie Dooley told the Call.

"We're going to get those millions in revenue. We're going to get those jobs. We're seeing the fruits of their labor coming to fruition,'' the county executive added.

"Now we will be able to do more detailed drawing, more detailed plans, so we could begin turning some earth, so we can get our building permits and get going," said Pinnacle spokesman Mack Bradley of the Vandiver Group.

"We can move forward with our design process and a more detailed architectural design," he told the Call. "We will be breaking ground. We first have to do environmental remediation. That should start this summer. People could see earth being turned in the summer."

Now, Pinnacle also will pay $2.5 million to the St. Louis County Port Authority, which owns the land, as an advance for its first year's rent. The money will be held in an escrow account until Pinnacle obtains the remainder of its required licenses and permits.

Pinnacle still needs a gambling license to operate the casino, and the state has stipulated that the entertainment company must have the permits in hand to build an access road from Interstate 55 to the National Lead Site.

"We are looking at building a new road more or less that will hug the southern portion of the River Des Peres that would connect Interstate 55 and Broadway and will go into the northern portion of the site," Bradley said. "It also creates economic development possibilities for other sites around the area."

With the commission's approval last week, however, Pinnacle can press forward with construction of the casino, Bradley said, and handle the road improvements later. Missouri doesn't grant licenses until the casino is built anyway.

"In Missouri, you never get your (gambling) license until you're about ready to open," he said.

Besides a 90,000 square-foot casino with 3,000 slot machines and 60 tables, Pinnacle has plans for an "entertainment complex," Bradley said, including retail shopping, a multi-screen movie theater, a hatch-shell amphitheater, an ice-skating rink, a small bowling alley, restaurants and a 100-room luxury hotel.

"We also committed to building an aquatic center for the Lemay community," he added.

Pinnacle's plans include 56 acres of entertainment plus another 24 acres of park and recreational facilities.

The project is expected to generate roughly 2,000 permanent jobs and 1,000 construction jobs.

"This is another great step toward bringing jobs, tourism, redevelopment, environmental remediation and investment back to an area of our county that needs it badly," Dooley stated in a news release.

The casino is scheduled to open in 2007, based on preliminary plans.

Bradley said Pinnacle plans to present photo graphics and blueprints of the site to the community sometime this summer.

"We'll want to go out and show the community in much more detail what we have in mind."

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