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Ameristar Casino considers Des Moines


Representatives of Ameristar Casino Inc. have been gauging public opinion about the possibility of developing a riverboat casino in downtown Des Moines should the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission decide to lift its moratorium on the number of gaming licenses it will issue. Ameristar officials Steven Eisner, vice president of development, and Jane Bell, director of government and community affairs, have been privately meeting with business leader to educate them about their operation and gain support. Eisner and Bell met last week with the staff of the Des Moines Business Record to discuss Ameristar’s history and plans for a potential riverboat in Des Moines. The company currently operates casinos and hotels in Council Bluffs, Kansas City, St. Charles, Mo., Vicksburg, Miss., and two in Jackpot, Nev., had nearly $700 million in revenues last year.

Q: Why open a riverboat in Des Moines now?

A: We think it‚s underserved for gaming. You have Prairie Meadows, which is a nice operation, but it’s limited because it doesn’t have gaming tables. We think the potential for growth is strong here if the community is supportive of it, and we pride ourselves on being good corporate citizens and being involved in the community.

Q: Have you identified a site?

A: No. We’re not far enough along yet. But it’s not going to be in an area near the proposed Principal Riverwalk.

Q: How would a casino affect the local economy?

A: We would make about a $200 million investment in the local community. We would build an operation similar in size and scope to our Council Bluffs casino, which would include about 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of gaming, as well as four to five dining and entertainment venues that could include a steakhouse, buffet and blues bar, and we would employ about 1,200 people. Those jobs would be well-paying jobs with a lot of upward mobility. Seventy-three percent of our promotions are filled from within, and our average salary, including benefits, is $28,000. Additionally, we would spend $12 million to $15 million annually for goods and services and another $10 million to $12 million would be gained by taxes, which would benefit charities. People who stay at our hotels also spend money elsewhere. They look for a place to eat, sporting events and shopping. We provide a real economic boost with visitors.

Q: Have any of your casinos failed?

A: We had one in Las Vegas, not on the strip, that we opened in 1998. It   Didn’t perform as well as we hoped it would.

Q: Are you considering other locations?

A: We’re always looking at markets. Our company is very strong financially. Our properties that we manage are performing well. Our capital structure is very good. We‚d love to be in Des Moines and other places, too.

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