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Howard Stutz

Early reviews are raves for St. Louis casino

3 March 2010

ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- Pinnacle Entertainment gave Wall Street and VIPs a sneak preview of its $380 million suburban St. Louis casino Monday and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

The River City Casino, Pinnacle's third in the St. Louis market, will open to the public Thursday with a 90,000 square-foot casino floor, 2,100 slot machines, 55 table games and five restaurants.

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle also operates Lumiere Place and the President in downtown St. Louis on the Mississippi River.

"In general, we and many of the other participants/investors were impressed by the quality of the property," JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a research note. "One word we heard quite frequently was 'beautiful,' and many commented that the decor of the property was very similar to that Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas."

The property is themed after the 1904 World's Fair, which took place in St. Louis.

The casino is the third largest in St. Louis and the seventh in the market, which also includes properties owned by Harrah's Entertainment and Ameristar Casinos.

"River City should be a strong competitor in St. Louis, as its physical attributes, access and location are key positives," Oppenheimer gaming analyst David Katz told investors.

Wall Street was concerned that River City would take customers away from Pinnacle's downtown Lumiere Place.

However, River City doesn't operate a hotel, and Pinnacle executives believe the properties will complement each other. River City is suburban and locals-oriented. Lumiere Place is attached to a hotel and appeals to an array of customers.

Pinnacle executives said the company hopes to have a new chief executive officer in place within several weeks. Former Chairman and CEO Dan Lee resigned in November and former Hilton Gaming President John Giovenco has held the CEO role on an interim basis.