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updated: 12/28/2012 8:15 PM

East St. Louis casino now employee-owned

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Associated Press

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- The 700 employees of an East St. Louis casino now own the company.

The Casino Queen Hotel and Casino is operating as an employee stock ownership plan following approval last week from the Illinois Gaming Board.

The $170 million acquisition creates a trust for the participating employees, who are eligible for shareholder dividends. The employees took on the casino's $31 million debt as part of the deal.

Casino President Jeff Watson says he knows of no other casino in the nation operating as an ESOP.

The Casino Queen opened in 1993 along the riverfront in East St. Louis. It attracts nearly 2 million visitors a year.

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