Is Cape Girardeau's casino a game changer for the city's businesses?

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - City leaders called the casino a game changer, so now that it's been open just over a month, is it changing the game for local businesses?

We saw the crowd on the Isle of Capri's opening day, but business owners wondered if those people would journey to the shops and eateries of downtown Cape.

Some business owners like Laurie Everett of Annie Laurie's Antiques, said yes.

"We've noticed a lot more traffic, not just within the store, but people driving up and down Broadway, people walking up and down Broadway," said Everett.

She said some people tell her they've never visited Cape Girardeau until the casino opened.

"They're here just because of the casino, and they just happen to stop in our place too," said Everett.

Mike Yaeger is the owner of Renaissance, and just like Everett, has a prime location on the path to the casino.

"Pretty well everybody that comes downtown drives by Renaissance," said Yaeger.

He said they didn't see an influx of customers right away, but not that people are making another trip to the gambling grounds; they're exploring what's nearby.

"We've had several that this is their second and third time down, and they had looked at different shops their first time, and said they want to come back, and some of them are actually starting to come back in," said Yaeger.

Other places have seen a different impact. Michael Hess, the owner of Hotshots said he saw an initial boom of customers during the casino's construction. But when those workers left town, so did the new lunch crowd.

Now as customers check out the new hot spot in town, Hess said he hopes the initial excitement of the casino wears off.

"People will realize that it's an expensive form of entertainment, and the $100 dollars, $200 dollars that somebody could have spent in 3 or 4 places now all goes to one," said Hess.

Despite that, he's still a fan of the casino.

"There is an exposure level down here that we've never had," said Hess.

Other owners like Tina Abbott of Cup N' Cork said it's hard to measure the effect. Is it the holiday season, the downtown renovations, or the new casino?

"People don't come in and say hey, we're from the casino, so I honestly can't say one way or another, all I know is downtown is much busier," said Abbott.

A few of the store owners said business has pretty much stayed the same because they're a specific shop, like a jewelry store or consignment shop. So they said their regular customers are still the frequent shoppers.

Since the casino is new and attracting patrons there, and the holiday season is attracting people to the area for shopping, some of the owners said they will be able to really tell how the casino is affecting the downtown area in the summertime, once it all settles down.

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