Isle of Capri, the KC riverfront casino Trump once tried to buy, may get new owner

The Isle of Capri Casino on the riverfront in Kansas City may be part of a $230 million acquisition by gaming company Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Twin River on Thursday announced it had entered into an agreement to buy Isle of Capri in Kansas City, as well as the Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, from Eldorado Resorts. The deal comes as gaming mammoth Ceasars Entertainment is looking to merge with Eldorado Resorts.

George Papanier, chief executive of Twin River, said the proposed deal would expand the company’s geographic footprint. Twin River currently owns and manages four casinos in the United States — one in Rhode Island, two in Mississippi and one in Delaware.

Twin River indicated it may be planning to make investments in Isle of Capri if the deal closes.

“In particular, in Kansas City, where the property lies within an area near downtown that has been targeted by local officials for development, we feel there is opportunity for capital investment in the property which we believe will have a transformative impact and integrate well with local developments in the area,” Papanier said.

Isle of Capri is located along the Missouri River near the Kit Bond Bridge and Front Street. It lacks an accompanying hotel and has trailed competing casinos in Kansas City.

Financial reports by the Missouri Gaming Commission show Isle of Capri lags behind competitors in Kansas City and St. Louis in terms of admissions and earnings from slot and table games.

The Port Authority of Kansas City, or Port KC, is Isle of Capri’s landlord. Port KC has promoted new development along the riverfront, a stretch of land that the city had previously neglected. New apartments, recreational amenities and retail have emerged in the vicinity of Isle of Capri.

Eldorado Gaming have been great partners in their time as owners of the Isle of Capri,” said Port KC chief executive Jon Stephens in a statement. “We look forward to learning more about Twin River’s commitment to our community and proposed investments.”

Isle of Capri opened in Kansas City in 1996 as the $100 million Hilton Flamingo as Missouri expanded riverboat gaming.

The new casino property descended into scandal when federal investigators looked into a bribery scheme in which a Hilton executive was alleged to have offered then-Port Authority chairman Elbert Anderson substantial payments in return for his support of the casino.

Hilton, which paid a $650,000 penalty as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the federal government, also agreed to surrender its Missouri gaming license and looked to sell Isle of Capri and get out of Kansas City.

That’s when Donald Trump came to town.

In 1999, Trump put down an offer to buy the Hilton Flamingo for $15 million. The offer came as his Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino interests were in decline.

The Port Authority was keen on Trump’s offer, but about eight months after the Trump Organization applied for a casino license from the Missouri Gaming Commission, a process that involves a background investigation, Trump withdrew his offer.

As Trump ran for president and after he got elected, The Star and other media outlets have sought the Missouri Gaming Commission’s records of its investigation of Trump in connection to the casino license application. It’s rumored to exceed 1,000 pages in volume. But the Missouri Gaming Commission has denied those requests, saying state law requires them to remain closed.