In opening for business in 1994, the St. Jo Frontier Casino missed the Flood of 1993 by one year.
Never fear, the local casino experienced the power of the Missouri River in 2011 and again in 2019, when floodwaters forced an extended closing of the gambling facility.
The casino actually suffered two flood-related closings last year, once in March for roughly a month and then again in late May. The facility opened in June as employees continued intense cleanup efforts and prepared for its 25-year anniversary.
“It’s all about our employees,” Michael Tamburelli, the casino’s vice president and general manager, told a News-Press NOW reporter in June. “We had a lot of things to do. Everyone was back to work.”
To some degree, the Frontier Casino has no choice but the endure periodic flooding in exchange for having a gambling facility in St. Joseph. Despite the efforts by some to get a casino in the southern part of Missouri, state law requires all “riverboat” casinos to be located within proximity to the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. Right now, there aren’t a lot of options for higher ground, and the casino in St. Joseph appears to be committed to its current location.
While options are limited, it should be noted that businesses over the years have abandoned St. Joseph for lesser reasons. This wasn’t the first time the Frontier Casino lost revenue, customers and market share in the wake of flooding. Local governments that rely on casino revenue also took at hit from the flooding in 2019.
It wasn’t the first time the casino — owned by Las Vegas-based Affinity Gaming — rebounded and got back to the business of providing an entertainment option and employment for the community. On Monday, the Frontier Casino kicked off the new year with the grand opening of an extensive remodeling project following the damage from the 2019 flood.
Some of the improvements included a sports bar with 34 televisions, an updated ballroom and a new coffee shop. The casino also announced investments in flood-prevention methods at its property.
Casino operators received some bad news when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released projections showing that the flood risk remains high in 2020, with runoff in the Missouri River basin forecast at the ninth-highest level on record in 2020. This follows a year when runoff came close to breaking a record.
The casino, its management and employees deserve a victory lap after coming back from another flood. More than that, they deserve a focused effort to prevent this year’s flood season from being as bad as what happened in 2019.
We celebrate the resilience, but unfortunately we keep the sandbags handy.