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ST LOUIS-The Missouri Gaming Commission is taking steps to ensure that a casino in Caruthersville doesn’t go dark in three weeks, when its owner is scheduled to be acquired by another gaming company that doesn’t want the property. The commission on Wednesday directed staff to take the necessary legal steps for the appointment of a supervisor of Casino Aztar Caruthersville.

The casino’s Phoenix-based owner, Aztar Corp., has agreed to sell the property to a joint venture of locally based Fortunes Entertainment, which is operated by Lance Callis, a co-founder of Argosy Gaming Co. and Argosy’s predecessor company, Metro Tourism and Entertainment. The sale was scheduled to close prior to Aztar’s acquisition by the gaming affiliate of Columbia Sussex Corp. of Kentucky, but the Gaming Commission said Wednesday it appears that Fortunes will not be licensed to operate the casino prior to the merger and that Aztar and its new owner will not continue to operate the property after the merger.

“It appears the state will take over property, operate it and sell it,” a source at Aztar tells GlobeSt.com. Exactly how the property transfer would take place “is unresolved,” the source says. “We’ve got to sort it all out.”

Casino Aztar employs 283 people in Southeast Missouri and contributes more than $6 million in annual fees and taxes. “The ripple effect of a shut down would have a powerful impact on Caruthersville, surrounding Pemiscot County, and the state,” says Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Gene McNary. “All levels of government are taking an interest into this matter.”

Meantime, the merger and the related sale of Aztar Caruthersville are the subject of two lawsuits. Aztar officials notified shareholders in September that Judge Robert E. Miles of Maricopa County has set a hearing date for Nov. 21 on a settlement proposal. It is unclear whether the timing of the settlement hearing will affect the scheduled closing of the merger agreement; an Aztar official did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The suits, filed in March by shareholders Robert Glasmann and Plumber Local Union No. 519 Pension Trust Fund, allege Aztar and its board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by not setting up an auction “or active market check” before contracting March 13 to be acquired by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, PNK Development 1 Inc. Aztar eventually paid Pinnacle $78 million to kill their $51-per-share merger deal and hook up with Columbia Entertainment, which has agreed to pay $54 per share. Aztar shareholders approved the merger earlier this month.

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