From the News Press.com
A line of customers formed outside the St. Jo Frontier Casino shortly before noon Thursday as the facility opened for the first time in three months.The casino had been closed since June 27 because of flooding along the Missouri River.“It’s been a long 94 days,” said Craig Travers, general manager at the casino.The parking lot grew full by 11:45 a.m., with dozens of eager patrons waiting to see the remodeled building and spend a little money on the gaming floor. Casino officials said more than 100 customers showed up in the first 10 minutes and attendance had reached 200 by 3 p.m.“I’m excited to see it again,” said customer Patty McMillian. “It seems like it’s been closed forever and I almost forgot what it looked like.”Customers were able to enter the casino floor but the Bougainvillea Buffet Cafe and Lounge was not open to the public Thursday.The St. Jo Frontier Casino has a grand reopening scheduled for 8 a.m. today, where the first 500 guests with a player’s card receive a gift. The restaurant will be open at that time, too.“I didn’t want to wait,” said Pepper Barnes, another first-day customer.Ms. Barnes, who lives in the North End around the corner from the casino, has been a regular at the facility since it opened in 1994. She and her two cousins were disappointed when the flood forced the casino to close.“I was bored stiff,” she said. “I think it’s the best thing to happen to St. Joe for the older people. We’re all retired and for me, I don’t have any children and no grandkids.”Throughout the years, Ms. Barnes said she has become familiar with the casino staff and made new friends with other gamblers. She said she has even run across old classmates from grade school a time or two.During the summer, Ms. McMillian and her sister, Sharon Grengers, took advantage of the busing to a casino in Osceola, Iowa. They also visited other area casinos.“We went to White Cloud (Kansas) a lot,” Ms. McMillian said. “But the drive was a little long for us so we sure are glad this one is back open.”Mr. Travers said the casino estimates it lost up to $14 million in gross revenue in the three months it was closed, with a portion of that money earmarked for the state and local governments. He said repairs, which began Aug. 29, cost around $4 million.The Missouri Gaming Commission, at a meeting in August, expressed some concern about mold in the facility but was told there was extensive work to tear out carpet, walls and drywall. There was no damage to the actual casino floor, the commission said.“They should be in pretty good shape,” Roger Stottlemyre, executive director of the gaming commission, said at the meeting.Mr. Travers said the casino, which employs 270 people, always planned to re-open eventually, even as the flood waters lingered throughout the summer. He said closing for good, as some businesses did following the 1993 flood, was never an option.“It was just a matter of time,” he said.
Jennifer Hall can be reached at [email protected]