LaGRANGE, Mo. -- The Missouri Gaming Commission on Wednesday unanimously renewed Mark Twain Casino's gaming license for four years.
LeAnn McCarthy, the commission's public information officer, said no major concerns were voiced during the commission's deliberations in Jefferson City.
Testifying in support of the relicensing were LaGrange Mayor Mike Lowe, City Administrator John Roach and City Council member Bob Corbin -- along with the casino's general manager, Gerry Smriga.
"The city officials couldn't be more pleased to have a casino in their city," McCarthy said. "The general opinion I got from their presentation was one of gratitude. They all spoke in favor of relicensing."
The city leaders cited the many municipal improvements that have taken place in LaGrange over the years, thanks to the city's share of gaming taxes and admission fees paid by the casino, which began operations July 25, 2001.
Gaming Commission records show that the city has received more than $27 million in gaming taxes and fees since the casino's inception 15 1/2 years ago.
Much of the city's revenue has been spent on various infrastructure projects. Chief among these was the construction of a $4 million wastewater treatment facility financed with $2.5 million in casino revenue and $1.5 million in grants.
The city also has invested significant amounts of casino revenue into water plant improvements, new water and sewer lines, sidewalk and street repairs, emergency warning sirens, decorative street lighting, and various park improvements. The city also has bought new squad cars, fire trucks and heavy equipment for the Public Works Department.
In an interview Wednesday, Roach said LaGrange is fortunate to have a casino because it provides a major boost to the city's budget.
"With the casino being one of our only sources of revenue, we rely on it pretty heavily," Roach said.
The casino has a big economic impact on LaGrange and Lewis County. The Gaming Commission's annual report shows Mark Twain Casino employed 221 people during fiscal 2016. The report also noted that the casino made $14,067 in charitable donations during the year.
"There are good people working there," Roach said. "We have a good working relationship with them."
Grace Entertainment initially opened the business in 2001. After the death of owner William Grace, the casino was sold Feb. 1, 2005, to Nevada-based Herbst Gaming Inc., an offshoot of the Terrible Herbst Oil Co. Herbst Gaming also acquired St. Jo Frontier Casino in St. Joseph at the same time.
In March 2009, Herbst Gaming filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions. The company emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31, 2010, as Herbst Gaming LLC. The company subsequently changed its name to Affinity Gaming LLC in May 2011.
During Wednesday's meeting, the commission also renewed the gaming licenses for Affinity and St. Jo Frontier.
Last month, the commission cleared the way for Z Capital Group LLC to acquire all outstanding shares of the stock owned by Affinity Gaming. Once the deal is completed, Affinity will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Z Capital Affinity Owner LLC.
Ed Grewach, the commission's general counsel, told The Herald-Whig that the pending ownership change "won't affect Affinity's license or the two casinos' licenses" that were just renewed.