New casino takes city center development plan underground

Nearly six months ago, a team of top executives from Pinnacle Entertainment had a freewheeling discussion during a Q1 earnings conference call about the future of the new $400 million Larkled’s landing casino development project.

Shortly after Steve Capp, the company’s chief financial officer, gave a morning greeting and “a quick few words about the balance sheet and liquidity,” an unidentified company representative talked about the 1,000-foot-long pedestrian tunnel connecting downtown and casinos, a key element of a luxury complex that has received little attention.

“Imagine when 65,000 people stopped playing the Rams,” the employee began. “We’re building a pedestrian tunnel right next to the stadium. If 10 percent of people want to get out of the stadium and go to our casinos, that’s 6,500 people.

“We purposely put our casinos between the Rams stadium and many parking lots. So people will head through our tunnels to their parking lots, and they will know that we have slot machines in their path, so they will remove the loss limit.” 안전놀이터

In conclusion, company officials suggested that the tunnel cannot help but increase casino attendance, and in doing so, could very well offset the effect of Missouri’s $500 loss limit law. A 1992 gaming law was enacted to protect forced gamblers by limiting their losses to $500 over two hours.

The only loss-limiting law in the U.S. has actually been proposed by the casino industry. But in recent years, Pinnacle and other gambling concerns have urged its abolition, arguing that restrictions on chip purchases are pushing game lovers to other states.

If all goes according to plan, the tunnel will begin near the American Center, a block north of Washington Avenue, travel down Interstate 70 and then climb to “some sort of mezzanine-like area overlooking the casino,” says Pinnacle spokesman Mac Bradley.

“It has direct access to some small shops and retail stores on the second floor.”

Arriving at the end of the line, customers can head outdoors to visit Landing or create a bell line for the more important slot machine in Pinnacle.

According to Bradley, the company’s engineers are satisfied that they looked into the route and found one without sewage and public lines, although the exact route has yet to be determined. Since there are currently no tunnels in the area, a new one needs to be built. How deep it will be is not determined yet.

Pinnacle, which owns and operates casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and Argentina, hopes for what the company calls “a connection to pedestrians.” Otherwise, it will beckon gamblers who don’t want to cross one of the least pedestrian-friendly areas of the city straight into the Palace of Pleasure.

Pinnacle Chairman Wade Hundley theorized, “If it’s easy to go from place to place, people will definitely do it, and we’re sitting at the center of it all. The connection from that side of the highway to Lachlyde Landing — if we could just get people through our facilities, we’d all benefit from it.”

Originally based in Las Vegas, the gaming company was believed to be a pedestrian bridge. Rodney Crime, the executive director of the St. Louis Development Company, who gave a tentative blessing to the project, says, “But it would still cross underneath the highway. It wasn’t that appealing or appealing to people trying to cross from one side to the other.”

It was Daniel R. Lee, the CEO of Pinnacle, who created the tunnel idea. “It was one of those moments when everyone went, ‘Oh… yeah!'” Bradley recalls. Pinnacle will pay for the entire project, and Crim estimates it will cost $10 million.

Bradley says the tunnel is critical to the pinnacle’s interests. In other words, if the company is going to spend that much money, it wants to offer gamblers an easy, uninterrupted access to the casino. “It was obvious, and it’s no secret for anyone in the town that Highway 70 has a barrier between the riverfront area and the rest of the city,” he says.

The criminals only said, “The good thing is they’re doing the math,” while avoiding a question about whether the $10 million could be better spent on improving the above-ground concrete pile

The development, which plans to include casinos, Four Seasons hotels, restaurants, retail stores and residential properties when completed in 2007, will consume 11 acres and will extend from Interstate 70 to the Mississippi River.

Although the architectural drawings are not finalized, Bradley says the company imagines a gaze-style entrance down a clean, well-lit aisle that resembles the movement of people at O’Hare International Airport. It will carry visitors directly into the complex without a dividing path.

“Once you get into the western end of the tunnel, you’ll be inside, at the other end before you even know it,” Bradley says. “The experience has to be an enjoyable one.”

Crim emphasizes that once Pinnacle completes its design, it will face general bureaucratic scrutiny, including reviews by all relevant city departments and environmental impact studies. Because the tunnel travels down the highway, the Missouri Department of Transportation must also sign off on the project. So far, no one has been hacked by underground roads.

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