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Tropicana Entertainment Partners with Koman Family in Bid
 for $130 million Casino in St. Louis, Missouri

By Tim Logan, St. Louis Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

November 30, 2010--A group that wants to build a $130 million casino in north St. Louis said Monday that it's bringing a big name from Las Vegas into their effort.

Tropicana Entertainment has reached a deal with the Koman family to partner on the proposed Casino Celebration just south of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, if Missouri regulators pick the project to be the state's 13th casino.

The Las Vegas-based gambling operator would be a 50-50 partner in the project, helping to fund its construction and to manage the casino. Tropicana, which owns nine casinos in five states, was bought out of bankruptcy court earlier this year by billionaire investor -- and onetime TWA owner -- Carl Icahn.

The deal brings deeper pockets and more casino-running expertise to the project, said Greg Smith, a lawyer for the Komans.

"We're pretty excited," he said. "They're one of the strongest companies in the industry right now."

That strength could help the Komans in their bid.

They're competing for the license with Creve Coeur-based Isle of Capri Corp., which wants to build a casino in Cape Girardeau, and with Paragon Gaming, which has proposed one in Sugar Creek, near Kansas City. A study issued Friday by the Missouri Gaming Commission predicted that the Cape Girardeau casino would generate the strongest returns for the state, and other gambling companies -- especially Ameristar Casinos -- have warned that a seventh St. Louis-area casino would oversaturate an already crowded market.

But after the Komans approached Tropicana, the company studied St. Louis and saw opportunity, said Trent Dang, a spokesman for Tropicana, which operates mostly midsize properties in local markets and likes its prospects here.

"We think it's a really good fit," Dang said. "We're just really excited about the opportunity and hope it comes our way."

Tropicana won't have long to wait.

The Gaming Commission meets Wednesday in Jefferson City and is expected to pick a winner for the license then. It was unclear Monday whether Tropicana's late entry might change their time frame, but commissioners have said they want to award the license by year's end, and Wednesday is their last scheduled meeting of the year.

Asked if Tropicana's involvement would sway the board's thinking, spokeswoman LeAnn McCarthy said that is up to commissioners.

"The commission is aware of it," she said. "They'll take it into consideration like they're considering every other factor."


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Copyright (c) 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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