Future of Casinos Hangs in the Balance - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Gulf Coast 09/30/05

Future of Casinos Hangs in the Balance

By Bert Case

The future of the 13 casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast hangs in the balance Friday evening, as the special session of the legislature tries to decide whether they can be rebuilt over land instead of water. The state is losing $500,000 a day in gaming revenue while the lawmakers deliberate.

When WLBT flew over the casinos on the Gulf Coast on the one month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Thursday, it appears all 13 of their owners are playing a waiting game while the legislature works to see what the ground rules will be for rebuilding. The casinos have various amounts of work to get back in business.

One of the least damaged is the Imperial Palace, which was not on the Gulf of Mexico, but back in Biloxi Bay. Its floating barge was lifted up by the storm surge, but it didn't take it away from the sight. It was simply put back down at an angle. The Isle of Capri sustained a lot of damage, but it appears it could be repaired relatively easily, compared with some of the others. The same is true for Beau Rivage, built by the much-heralded Yates Construction Company of Philadelphia, Mississippi, to withstand another hurricane Camille. It did, despite being on the gulf. Its casino floor was ravaged by the storm, which came well into the second story. And its parking garage sustained heavy damage, but it appears the rest of the high-rise structure is intact. The Hard Rock Casino, which was just about to open, was heavily damaged.

There are still casino barges across Highway 90 in Biloxi, and it doesn't appear any work is being done until owners find out what the legislature will do about new laws governing where they can rebuild. Some of the casino owners have already indicated they will not build back on the Mississippi Gulf Coast if they have to rebuild over water.

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