Officials discuss revenue splitting
County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, said he is unaware of a revenue sharing program with the city, but county and city officials are considering splitting revenue from two casinos that could be brought to south county and downtown St. Louis.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall announced last week the two leaders now are leading a joint city-county effort to attract casino developers — potentially a single developer — to both areas and to possibly divide the revenue that would be gained by each.
On Sept. 28, Campisi sent an e-mail to more than 12,000 people expressing his disapproval of such conversations taking place without including the input of other state and county officials.
"I am shocked and upset that a plan such as this, which involves both serious economic and social implications of St. Louis County, can be publicly floated in the media without discussion or dialogue with the St. Louis County councilman (yours truly) or our state legislative leaders from the south county area," Campisi stated in the e-mail.
"Two people sitting in the back room making a city-county deal is not regionalism. It is more a scheme."
Five minutes after this e-mail was sent, Campisi said he received 150 responses from county residents who are opposed to bringing a casino to south county.
Earlier this year, the Missouri Gaming Commission identified south county as an untapped gaming market. The county re-sponded and set a Sept. 12 request for proposal deadline for casino developers.
The county then extended its deadline to coincide with the city's Oct. 15 RFP to avoid a competitive disadvantage for those developers applying for both.
As of last week, the deadlines for both the city and county's request for gaming proposals have been extended to Nov. 14.
Campisi wrote he is against any proposal to bring gambling to south county without full public debate. Revenue sharing should be discussed with residents — "not two politicians," he said.
"Everybody knows Westfall and Slay are very good friends," he told the Call. "What Westfall calls regionalism is really stealing funds from south county people. Anything made in south county ought to stay in south county and used in south county."
Campisi told the Call that he believes the city needs help. The city is trying to build itself up and move west, but it can't do it on its own and it is trying to link with the county for assistance, he said.
He wrote south county residents deserve full disclosure of plans to share revenue with the city or to bring gaming into south county.
"We should not be talking about a revenue-sharing plan that helps the city of St. Louis' financial problems without really understanding the ramifications for the St. Louis County," he said. "And certainly, more gambling isn't the answer to fixing St. Louis County's revenue situation."
On Friday, Sept. 26, the Call received a letter from Slay and Westfall seeking to clarify recent gaming and revenue sharing issues.
"There is no gaming revenue sharing plan in existence between the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County," the letter stated. "We have not even discussed the parameters of such a plan. We have only announced that we may be willing, under favorable circumstances, to consider such a plan and to consider joint proposals from gaming developers."
The two wrote that they would move forward with a revenue sharing plan if it made sense for county and city residents.
The letter defends the joint city-county approach, which officials claim would "maximize" the chances that the Gaming Commission will look favorably on the city and the county rather than deciding to grant a license to another area in the state, such as Jefferson City.
Slay and Westfall agreed to proceed independently if a joint approach is not in their mutual interests, according to the letter.
The two also directly responded to Campisi's comments that he sent in his mass e-mail.
"It has been suggested that the process to date has not been open to the public," the letter stated. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
The letter referred to city and county public meetings that occurred this summer. Once the Nov. 14 RFP deadline hits, and the city and county can consider submitted proposals, there will be more public input meetings.
Dennis Coleman, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis County Economic Council, also sent a letter to the Call stating he was aware of Campisi's comments. Coleman described them as "premature."
Campisi told the Call that if Slay and Westfall are waiting until the Nov. 14 RFP deadline to consider gaming proposals and provide an outlet for public feedback, then they are the ones being premature in discussing revenue sharing programs
"They should not even be coming out with a plan, if that's what they're doing," Campisi told the Call. "This is purely political in order for them to get recognition. They shouldn't have talked about any RFP so far. If they think I am being premature, then they are more certainly premature. I am merely responding to statements.
"None of the state or county officials have been briefed on what they want to do. If they think my statements are premature, then that's immature."
However, Coleman told the Call that one week before the announcement was made, Mark Brady, assistant vice president for real estate and community development for the Economic Council, briefed Campisi of Slay's and Westfall's intentions to move forward with a joint city-county ap-proach.
Coleman said Campisi had a week to pose any questions for concerns before a formal announcement was made.
Coleman also told the Call a revenue sharing plan would in no way "steal" from south county residents.
"Without a boat, there is no revenue," Coleman told the Call. "I don't see how he (Campisi) can say that. If we don't get a license, there is no revenue, nothing is on the table. And again, giving the commission's prior history, they are clearly going to favor a downtown site. We just have to face up to the realities of how the gaming commission looks at this situation."
Initially, Coleman said the county was on its own track this summer to attract casino developers to south county, but then it learned of the city's RFP in July. Shortly after the city's announcement, Coleman said discussions began to take place between Slay, Westfall and Economic Coun-cil representatives. Because both RFPs were going out at the same time, he said discussions of a joint approach began and Slay and Westfall had their first meeting on the subject on Sept. 8.
At that meeting, he said they only decided to entertain the possibility of a city-county approach, to extend the RFP deadline to Nov. 14 and to be open to a revenue sharing program.
They agreed to inform potential gaming operators and the public that such dual proposals would be acceptable, he indicated in his letter.
Coleman wrote in his letter that the Gaming Commission has previously favored a Jefferson County location over a St. Louis County location out of a concern that a St. Louis County location would undermine a downtown gaming facility. His letter echoed Westfall and Slay and stated no sharing plan or program currently exists, but the position has been taken that it could be a future option.
Coleman told the Call that city and county officials will each have to review the gaming proposals individually in Novem-ber and only then see if there is any compatibility or desirability for revenue sharing. Again, he said officials have indicated they are open to the "possibility" of revenue sharing, but there are no current proposals. He said everyone needs to keep an open mind to a possibility that might be attractive to the Gaming Commission.
Campisi said he soon plans to discuss south county gaming issues publicly in an open meeting. Anyone who would like to attend this meeting can e-mail him at jcampisi@stlouisco.
com for details.