Issue 260
September 5 - September 11, 2005
Volume 5
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News

Casino City's September Sweepstakes

Hurricane Katrina Disaster News Briefs

Churchill awaits reports of Fair Grounds damage

Internet casino firm 888 plans $500 mil. IPO

Mono Wind Casino re-opens

Show Time Tony Danza appears Sands Casino Resort, Atlantic City.

Column Trump Picks Up Pace in Competitive Slots Market By John Brokopp.

Check out our entertainment highlights & upcoming tournaments

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Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief News Briefs

Imperial Palace in Biloxi used by FEMA

As reported by GrandForksHerald.com

The Imperial Palace Mississippi hotel and casino in Biloxi, Miss., weathered Hurricane Katrina better than the rest of the dozen hotel/casinos in the Gulf city and is being used by FEMA as a headquarters in disaster relief.

The Imperial is owned by the family of the late Ralph Engelstad, the Thief River Falls native who built casinos in Las Vegas and Biloxi, as well as the hockey arenas in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.

Mississippi law requires that all casinos are on the water, so the Imperial's "land-based," 1,100-room, 32-story hotel is linked by ramps to the casino on a barge on Biloxi's back bay, said Jeremy Handel, public relations director for the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas.

The hurricane damaged the exterior of the hotel, and the ramps between the casino and hotel snapped as they are designed to do in a bad storm, Handel said. The casino's exterior appears to be little damaged, he said, but the full extent of the damage isn't known yet.

The casino and hotel were closed by state order over the weekend and all guests evacuated.

"We are trying to reach all our employees, and making sure that everyone is OK," Handel said. "There is a lack of communication. We have had some contact. Some of our engineers and staff have gone down there to see what they can find."

Meanwhile, members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have set up shop in the Imperial's hotel, Handel said.

Frustration, and Relief

As reported by Hotel Interactive

The Boomtown New Orleans sustained "minor to moderate" damage, Pinnacle said, while Casino Magic Biloxi sustained "substantial" damage to the floating casino and 22-story hotel.

Though well-represented in storm-pounded states, Atlanta-based Jameson Inns Inc., which operates 122 properties, reported that none of its in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi hotels endured significant damage or interrupted business.

All Jameson hotels affected by the hurricane remain open, the company said. Jameson Inns operates 18 properties in Alabama, six in Mississippi and three in Louisiana, though none near New Orleans.
But Harrah's Entertainment Inc. was less certain about the status of its properties in the ravaged region. Tuesday, the company said it still could not estimate the full extent of damage at Harrah's New Orleans, Grand Casino Biloxi and Grand Casino Gulfport, though it was sure the latter two properties suffered extensive damage.

It said it expected Harrah's New Orleans to remain closed for at least four weeks.
The gaming giant said it expected estimates of its uninsured operating loss from the loss of casino business to clock in at roughly 0.5 percent of its annual Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA).

Harrah's said it would continue paying affected workers their regular base pay for up to 90 days.

Gaming rival MGM Mirage said its Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., saw significant damage, and the company was trying to connect to the property's workers Tuesday.

Robert Baldwin, president and chief executive of Mirage Resorts, was assembling a team to assess the damage at Beau Rivage, but was awaiting clearance from emergency authorities, the company said.


Miss. Could Consider Land-Based Casinos
As reported by the Associated Press

Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast gambling industry could sway Mississippi legislators to consider allowing land-based casinos and scrap the law that placed them on the water in vulnerable spots.
"I think that will be a public policy question that will be on the minds of every legislator when they come in for the next session," said Larry Gregory, the Mississippi Gaming Commission's executive director. "That discussion will be the No. 1 issue in this legislative cycle. This will definitely put the fire under their feet."
More than half of the 13 casinos in Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis were destroyed by the hurricane that roared in off the ocean, Gregory said Wednesday.

Mississippi requires casinos to float, either along the Gulf Coast or on the Mississippi River. A state law that took effect earlier this year allows the floating casinos to build permanent pilings to stabilize the barges.
It's not clear if that reinforcement would have been enough to save the casinos in a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. None of the casinos had a chance to construct pilings.

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said the law should be rewritten to allow land-based casinos, but only in areas that had gambling barges before.

"I think if they had been on land, it still would have been disastrous, but not nearly as much," said Holland , a member of the Gaming Committee in the Mississippi House.

Some lawmakers, particularly religious conservatives, have opposed land-based casinos along the coast or the Mississippi River because they fear other, inland counties would push for gambling house, too.
After the hurricane, "I think what you're going to see, politically, is a different mind-set on everything," Holland said.

Powerful winds and a massive storm surge laid waste to the region, tossing some of the barges on which the casinos rested like toy boats and crippling the state's $2.7 billion gambling industry.
Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc. likely lost two casinos in the powerful hurricane: the Grand Casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport. The Beau Rivage sustained "significant damage, " as did Biloxi's Casino Magic, which is owned by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. of Las Vegas.

The Casino Magic Bay St. Louis and Boomtown Biloxi Casino in Biloxi were severely damaged, according to owner Penn National Gaming Inc. Television footage showed the Copa Casino in Gulfport and the Hard Rock casino in Biloxi appeared to have extensive damage.

The Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi was a total loss, said Bernie Burkholder, president and chief executive.
Gary Loveman, Harrah's chairman and chief executive, said putting casinos on boats didn't make any sense. It's been a running debate since the state legalized floating casinos in 1990 and the first one opened in 1992.

"I've just never understood that," Loveman said. "It's not simply an inconvenience. ... it's a public safety problem."

Loveman, who runs the world's largest gambling company, said Harrah's would rebuild on the Gulf Coast but would take a hard look at putting a casino on a barge again.

JP Morgan gambling analyst Harry Curtis wrote in an investor's note that the state would benefit from land-based casinos.

"In the long run, we think this legislation would be good for the state's tourism industry," because it could encourage greater investment and greater amenities," Curtis said. He cautioned that "investment would not occur unless casinos could build facilities to withstand Category 5 hurricanes."

 

How to Help: Organizations Involved in Hurricane Katrina Relief

  • FEMA Charity tips:www.fema.gov/rrr/help2.shtm
  • Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW or www.redcross.org
  • Network for Good www.networkforgood.org
  • McCormick Tribune Foundation Hurricane Katrina Relief Campaign: www.mccormicktribune.org/mtf/hurricanerelief.htm
  • Episcopal Relief & Development: 1-800-334-7626 or www.er-d.org/
  • Mercy Corps www.mercycorps.org
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief: 1-800-554-8583 or gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/hurricanes/2005
  • Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY or www.salvationarmyusa.org
  • Catholic Charities: 1-800-919-9338 or www.catholiccharitiesusa.org
  • National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster: www.nvoad.org
  • Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: www.la-spca.org
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