Coast Casinos Ponder Future - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 09/21/05

Coast Casinos Ponder Future

By Davis Brister
davis@wlbt.net

At least 13 casinos were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Coast casinos say it's worth the gamble to come back better than ever. Mississippi casino executives were in Jackson Wednesday, trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

The casinos executives say they're coming back strong, executives won t say how. After a two hour closed-door session, they re only shared a small portion of their future plans.

Most executives were mum, but they did talk about their main goal. Beverly Martin of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association says that goal is "To get our employees back to work as soon as possible."

Tens of thousands of people working in the industry are without jobs. Some will have to wait years for their casinos to rebuild.

Martin says "Slot machines and table games don't work well after they ve been drenched in salt water, so it's not just a matter of rebuilding but reordering and getting the games back in."

Curt Follmer is the General Manager of Vicksburg's Horizon Casino. He's seen his business pickup after the storm. Still, it's at a cost and he wonders how he'd handle all those displaced employees.

Follmer says "It would be heartbreaking. Some of them are getting paid for 90 days and some of them didn t even have the resources to do that. At the end of that 90 day period. It s gonna get p retty rough."

Officials hope to have some solution by Tuesday's Special Legislative Session, and say some casinos are doing their best to pay out.

Martin says "Almost all of the casinos at this point are offering jobs for employees to help with  cleanup. Unfortunately, there s not enough for all o f them."

something must be d one. The powers that be know this.

Follmer says "Without the employees, you don t exist."

And without the casino industry, the Mississippi economy takes a major nosedive.

The group also discussed land-based casinos. Some are passionate for land gaming and some are not. They say their corporate executives will make the final decision.

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