Metro-East News

Casino Queen group buys Iowa riverboat

The Casino Queen in East St. Louis will have a sister site after the announcement Thursday that the casino’s holding company will purchase a riverboat casino in Iowa.
The Casino Queen in East St. Louis will have a sister site after the announcement Thursday that the casino’s holding company will purchase a riverboat casino in Iowa. snagy@bnd.com

The holding company that owns the Casino Queen in East St. Louis on Thursday announced it would purchase a riverboat casino in Iowa.

According to a statement, Swansea-based CQ Holding Company will spend $40 million to buy the Lady Luck Marquette casino in Marquette, Iowa. Marquette is across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien, Wisc.

“This transaction marks an exciting time for the Casino Queen family as we grow from a single property to a regional gaming company,” CQ Holding Company’s president, Jeffrey K. Watson, said in the statement. “We are excited to work with a very talented and experienced team at Lady Luck Marquette.”

Lady Luck Marquette is currently owned by Ilse of Capri Casinos, a St. Louis-based operator with 13 locations in Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Iowa casino, which boasts 540 slot machines and an array of table games, will be rebranded as the Casino Queen Marquette.

The purchase will be made final following approval by gaming authorities in Iowa.

Casino Queen’s purchase comes in an era of decreasing revenues that riverboat operators blame on the prevalence of video gaming outside of casino settings, which Illinois legalized just over four years ago.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, revenues at the Casino Queen in the last decade have dropped from a high of $188,624,732 in 2007 to $104,826,739 last year. Complete data for 2016 is not yet available.

The Lady Luck Marquette generates significantly less revenue than the Casino Queen, but it’s also in a much more sparsely populated area. It brought in $42,123,943 in 2006, its best year in the last decade, according to data from the Iowa Gaming and Racing Commission. In 2015, it earned $28,553,086.

Lady Luck sits on the Mississippi River between Iowa and Wisconsin, where gambling is more tightly restricted than in Illinois.

For instance, gambling is only permitted on Indian reservations in Wisconsin, according to that state’s Department of Administration, which oversees gaming. Video gaming terminals are only allowed inside reservation casinos or other facilities on reservation land.

In Iowa, gaming is allowed only on riverboats like Lady Luck Marquette and at dog and horse racetracks. Video gaming terminals are outlawed outside of those settings, according the commission.

The Casino Queen-Lady Luck deal is expected to be finalized some time next year.

Casino Queen was established at 200 S. Front St. in East St. Louis in 1993 shortly after Illinois legalized riverboat gambling. It became the first employee-owned casino in the country in 2012.

Tobias Wall: 618-239-2501, @Wall_BND

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