Casino Protestor Protests Innocence | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Casino Protestor Protests Innocence

Did Hill District anti-gambling activist Kim Ellis "defame, slander and libel" casino company Isle of Capri by claiming residents opposed a previous casino application in another state?

The activist, a.k.a. Dr. Goddess, has organized "Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill" to protest the possibility of a slots parlor coming to the Hill District. The state will decide between Isle of Capri's Hill application and two others for North Shore and Station Square casinos on Dec. 20.

Ellis says a Nov. 18 cease-and-desist letter from Isle of Capri is "legal intimidation."

The dispute centers on a claim Ellis says she made in letters to local officials about Capri's application for a casino in Kimmswick, Mo., six years ago. Ellis did not provide a copy of the letter to City Paper, but admits it contains a "factual error." Still, Ellis reiterates her main contention today: Capri "withdrew their application at least in part because of the residents of Kimmswick," Ellis says. "That's inspiring."

But not true, says Capri spokesperson Les McMackin. "The neighbors didn't defeat the project; it was flawed from the beginning," he says. "We reached a decision not to pursue it. The site had several problems."

According to a Dec. 5, 2005, St. Louis Business Journal article, there may be elements of truth on both sides: "In 2001, Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. scrapped its plans to build a riverboat casino in Kimmswick, blaming potential litigation, possible condemnation and/or annexation of the site by a neighboring community, engineering and construction obstacles and lack of community support. Residents of Kimmswick had protested the casino since it was approved in July 2000 by the Missouri Gaming Commission."

Since then, the Journal reports, Capri has paid more than $14 million to settle a suit brought by St. Louis' county over the cancelled casino's development agreement. Capri has also paid other damages and a Missouri Gaming Commission fine over the deal, which originated with another company that Capri bought in 2000.

"Our intention wasn't to stop her from protesting," says IOC's McMackin about Ellis. He adds that no further legal action is planned against her. "She can do what she wants, as long as she's not saying things that are misleading or inaccurate about our company."

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