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Port Authority rescinds Futuresouth lease; request for gaming proposals issued


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Port Authority rescinds Futuresouth lease; request for gaming proposals issued

By BILL MILLIGAN

For the Call

The St. Louis County Port Authority has rescinded a lease agreement with a group of local investors to operate a gaming boat in Lemay and soon will issue a request for proposals to locate a casino in south county.

As reported exclusively by the Call, Fu-turesouth Inc. Chairman Dennis Long in-formed Port Authority Chairman Sheila Sweeney in a recent letter that an agreement between local investors and Ameri-star Casinos "has been terminated.''

The Port Authority last week voted to rescind the month-to-month lease with South-boat Ltd. Partnership, also known as Future-south Inc.

"We intend to issue a request for proposals within a month,'' said Elaine Wright, at-torney for the Port Authority. "This proposal will be for gaming only; it will not be site specific as it was the last time.''

For nearly 10 years, Southboat held a lease for a part of the former National Lead site south of the mouth of the River Des Peres in Lemay.

"I guess they've been patient with me,'' said Denny Long, chairman of the South-boat effort. "I feel it's a shame south county is losing this $150 million opportunity.''

Long said he did not know of any site that would be appropriate for gaming in south county, but Isle of Capri Casinos, which has proposed a casino at the south west end of the Jefferson Barracks bridge, has resumed efforts to obtain a license for its site, including meetings with boards of local chambers of commerce.

Long said he currently has no plans to submit a proposal to the Port Authority.

"But if an opportunity presents itself, I would be a fool not to with all the experience I've gotten over the past 10 years,'' Long said.

An extensive review process to award the gaming rights at the former National Lead site began in 1994 and at one point favored rival Casino America, now Isle of Capri Casinos.

In an April 26, 1995, letter to the County Council, Economic Council Executive Di-rector Dennis Coleman said four key factors weighed in favor of Casino America.

Those factors included the company's willingness to guarantee commitments, ability to finance the project, pledge to be-gin making rent payments 30 days after li-censure and the cash benefits offered.

But the County Council asked Coleman to reconsider his evaluation after a May 4, 1995, meeting of the County Council's Committee of the Whole. On June 8, 1995, the council approved a non-exclusive lease with Showboat and Futuresouth Inc.

However, an exclusive lease between the Port Authority and Southboat Ltd. Part-nership, a company comprised of Show-boat and Futuresouth, was signed in October 1995.

The document established a 14-month deadline for project startup but the Mis-souri Gaming Commission announced a moratorium on casino licensing until the spring of 1999.

By that time, Showboat had been sold to Harrah's Casinos and that firm had no interest in the lease with Southboat.

Long and his investors continued to hold an exclusive lease for riverboat gambling in south county until they found Ameristar Casinos to act as their gambling operator in October 1999.

Southboat remained in control of the National Lead site lease even after the Gaming Commission passed on its gaming application in July 2001. After that, Ameristar purchased an existing casino in west county.

"Ameristar spent $375 million in west county,'' Long said. "Even half of that would have been a terrific economic boon to south county.''

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