Casino Queen parent acquiring Iowa riverboat casino for $40 million

The owner of the Casino Queen is branching out from its base in the Metro East by acquiring an Iowa riverboat casino from Isle of Capri Casinos for $40 million.

Lady Luck Casino Marquette, which has 190 employees, will be rebranded as Casino Queen Marquette when the deal is completed.

Creve Coeur-based Isle of Capri, which acquired the Iowa casino with 540 slot machines in 2000, said the sale to Swansea-based CQ Holdings Company Inc. will close early in fiscal 2018 pending regulatory approvals.

Isle of Capri, which operates 14 casinos under the Isle or Lady Luck brands including four in Missouri, announced in September that it is being acquired by Reno-based Eldorado Resorts for $1.7 billion and its headquarters is moving to Reno. The sale of the Iowa casino is not expected to alter the timing of the transaction with Eldorado, Isle of Capri said.

“This transaction marks an exciting time for the Casino Queen family as we grow from a single property into a regional gaming company,” CQ Holdings’ president Jeffrey Watson said in a statement. Citizens Bank N.A. and Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. are providing financing for the deal.

CQ Holdings is the parent company of the Casino Queen casino in East St. Louis. When the Illinois casino opened in 1993 across from downtown St. Louis, it was the first casino located in the region’s core.

Pinnacle Entertainment opened Lumière Place downtown in 2007 and River City Casino opened in south St. Louis County in 2010, creating competition for Casino Queen. The Queen, as its known by customers, expanded in 2007 and became the first Illinois casino to operate a ‘boat in a moat’ facility not located on a river.

Through the creation of an employee stock ownership plan in 2012, the Casino Queen became the only 100 percent employee-owned casino in the country. With the ESOP, company stock is held in a trust and employees receive a payout when they retire or leave the company.

The Casino Queen’s revenue grew by 5 percent in September to $8.6 million, surpassing the region’s average increase of 3.3 percent compared with September 2015, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. But annual customer visits and total gross receipts have fallen sharply in recent years. In 2015, Casino Queen had 1.2 million admissions and $104.8 million in total gross receipts, compared with 1.86 million admissions in 2012 and $131.2 million in total gross receipts.