Casino seeks OK to give political gifts
By Linda
Though President Casinos Inc. is struggling to pay its debts, the company wants to hand out $50,000 in campaign contributions in Missouri.

The St. Louis-based company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in June, has asked the judge in the case to grant an 'emergency motion for approval to make political contributions.'

The motion says the company must contribute to politicians 'to further and protect its business interests and to influence where possible those responsible for governing its industry.'

Donations are 'particularly important with respect to the operations in Missouri,' the motion says, because state law imposes a loss limit of $500 per gambling session. Casinos have lobbied to repeal the limit. President Casinos' motion spells out why: 'The potential for improvement in the debtors' revenues and overall business capacity stands to greatly increase if this legislation is repealed,' the motion says.

The company said it was 'critically necessary' to make $50,000 in campaign donations - half before today's primary election and half between the primary and the general election in November. The money would go to 'the State House and Senate and to their respective Leadership Funds.'

The President has gotten in hot water in the past over campaign contributions. Last year, the Missouri Gaming Commission fined the President $25,000 for giving illegal campaign contributions to city officials. Casino executives gave the money in 1999 and 2000, although a city ordinance prohibits any casino officer in the city from giving money to candidates for city office.

Glenn Koenen, executive director of the Circle of Concern food pantry in Valley Park, said he was opposed to letting the President get permission to make such political contributions.

He said gambling addiction has caused many social problems in Missouri.

He compared gambling addiction to alcohol addiction. For example, he said, a person can drink only a couple of hundred of dollars worth of alcohol in a day. 'Without their loss limits, (gamblers) can lose their house in a day,' he said.

President's spokesman, Jon Sloane, said Monday that the judge had not yet ruled on the motion. He said the company saw nothing unusual about the request, which was filed last week in US Bankruptcy Court in Biloxi, Miss.

'We want to exercise our constitutional right to get involved in the political process, and this is the proper way to go about it,' Sloane said.

The company owns the President Casino on the Admiral at Laclede's Landing, as well as a casino and resort in Biloxi. President Casinos is trying to restructure its debts and hopes to emerge from bankruptcy next year.

The bankruptcy filing was triggered when Bank of New York claimed that President Casinos had defaulted on a $25 million bond issue.

While company revenue has been falling, receipts have been on the upswing at the St. Louis property. The President Casino on the Admiral posted double-digit growth for 16 straight months until flooding closed the boat for seven days in the spring.

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