Cape Girardeau Casino Provides Education Space For Missouri University

Written By Hill Kerby on June 23, 2023
Century Casino Cape Girardeau provides education space to local university.

It’s not every day that university officials encourage their students to go to a casino. That’s even more true when it has nothing to do with gambling.

Century Casino Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri State University have established a mutually beneficial and flourishing partnership that has brought multiple classes to the casino in Missouri each of the last two semesters.

The casino provides a state-of-the-art kitchen to culinary students at the school.

A buffet of opportunity

With Missouri online gambling still prohibited, the only places Missourians can place a wager is at one of the state’s 13 riverboat casinos. Efforts to bring online sports betting to Missouri have failed over the last few years.

Century’s closed buffet had left the casino exploring options to fill it, including repurposing the space for various collaborative kitchen concepts. Cape Girardeau Mayor Bob Fox connected Century Casino General Manager Lyle Randolph with SEMO’s president, Dr. Carlos Vargas.

Randolph told the Southeast Missourian that SEMO was using basement space in an old dormitory for its two nutrition and hospitality management culinary programs. It lacked the resources to build a new facility and sought a solution.

“(SEMO) knew it needed something, but the investment required didn’t make a lot of sense for them. We had a commercial kitchen space we were trying to find a use for, and Southeast needed a commercial kitchen for instruction. We talked it through, and the city was the facilitator in putting us together.”

After the two parties came to terms, Randolph contacted the Missouri Gaming Commission to approve the new space. It required a few changes to ensure underage students remained off the gaming floor, including creating a dedicated entrance for students to access the kitchen area.

The casino made those changes, and the MGC gave the green light to move forward.

Trash leads to treasure

Many casinos shuttered their buffets in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic, never to reopen them again. Century Casino got a head start, closing in 2019.

According to Randolph, the property’s buffet created excessive and unsustainable amounts of food waste to meet customers’ expectations of fresh food.

“What we were really looking for since 2019 was the right opportunity to utilize the space.”

The space – a multi-million-dollar professional kitchen – proved perfect for SEMO. It was not only an opportunity for Century Casino to utilize the space, it was a great way for the casino to connect to the local community.

Partnership could grow to include other classes

Century Casinos began doing business in The Show Me State in 2019, purchasing properties in Cape Girardeau and Caruthersville. It has since committed to reinvesting millions into upgrades at both facilities, including the construction of Missouri’s first non-floating casino in Caruthersville and a hotel in Cape Girardeau.

The company employed Missouri-based management teams for these projects, creating consistent job offerings and a sustainable revenue stream for both cities.

Now, Century Casinos has found another way to benefit the community by providing its kitchen to SEMO for a small monthly fee to cover expenses.

Randolph said he sees the kitchen becoming the anchor of SEMO’s culinary programs. He also envisions the space expanding in the future to include arts and retail, creating something in the best interests of the casino, SEMO and Cape residents.

Photo by Century Casino Cape Girardeau/Courtesy
Hill Kerby Avatar
Written by
Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing.

View all posts by Hill Kerby