|By Phil Sutin, St. Louis
Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 28, 2009--The St. Louis County Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing next month on the latest proposal to build a casino in north St. Louis County.
The public hearing at 7 p.m. on Aug. 10 will center on plans for a massive complex on 376.82 acres along Riverview Drive.
But whether the developer, North County Development LLC, will ever build the casino is unclear. The hearing is the first step of the first of several arduous hoops the developer must go through before a casino would open.
The developer needs:
-- The county's zoning permission to develop the site as a complex.
-- A license for the casino from the Missouri Gaming Commission. Currently, the commission cannot grant a license because voters approved a proposal last November that included a limit of casinos in the state at 13 -- the 12 existing ones and the one under construction in Lemay.
-- Financing to build the complex, which could cost between $175 million and $375 million depending on its design and phasing.
-- A company to operate the complex.
Edward Griesedieck, the registered agent and zoning attorney for North County Development, said the earliest the complex could open is more than two years from now.
The complex's site is just south of the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, 0.9 miles north of Interstate 270. It also is north of the old North Shore country club site in both St. Louis and St. Louis County, long considered a potential location for a casino. Two developers presented unsuccessful proposals for the North Shore site in the 1990s.
The site that is subject of the hearing stretches to the Mississippi River and is entirely in St. Louis County.
A site plan for the complex, called Riverview Casino, shows a casino, convention center, theater, hotel, sports bar, buffet, store space, an 18-hole golf course, a wind farm and more than 8,000 parking spaces.
North County Development would build but not operate the casino, Griesedieck said. He declined to identify members of North County Development. They are landowners and developers, he said. Members of the group "don't want people calling them," he said.
He denied that North County Development is an agent for Pinnacle Entertainment of Las Vegas, which has talked about moving a casino operation from the Admiral riverboat in downtown St. Louis to North County.
The developer "has gone down the road" in talks with several casino operators, he said. Griesedieck would not name the gaming companies involved.
North County Development hopes to obtain an operator shortly after the county gives zoning approval for the complex, he said. The developer and operator then would work out details about the components of the complex, construction phasing and cost, he said. And the operator would apply to the gaming commission for a license, he said.
Today, the gaming commission will hold a hearing in Jefferson City on what to do with Pinnacle's President casino. The President is on the historic Admiral riverboat. Federal authorities may close the casino if inspectors decide the 100-year-old hull of the boat is unsafe.
The gaming commission hearing will consider whether Pinnacle can relocate the President Casino under its existing license or whether the license would be up for grabs if the casino closes and moves.
Griesedieck said even if North County Development fails to obtain Pinnacle's license, the group could ask lawmakers to raise the casino limit by one to 14, or persuade a casino operator in another part of the state to close a casino and give up a license.
The Spanish Lake Community Association opposes the complex, saying the development is too intense for the area.
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Copyright (c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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