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  #201  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2008, 4:24 AM
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Choctaw casino is rejected

Bureau: Site too far from the reservation
By MARY PEREZ
meperez@sunherald.com

JACKSON COUNTY --The federal government delivered the same message to The Mississippi Band of Choctaws as voters did in November - there will be no Choctaw casino in Jackson County.

The Choctaws were one of 11 tribes to receive letters from the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs last week rejecting their bids for off-reservation casinos because the sites are too far from the reservation.

The decisions were based on a new BIA police that virtually eliminates any chance of off-reservation gaming, according to indianz.com, a Web site that publishes tribal news from across the country. Tribes can challenge the decisions before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals or file lawsuits in federal court. They could also submit new applications. "However those future applications will be subject to these same guidelines," the guidelines state.

A four-page letter dated Jan. 4 was sent to Choctaw Chief Beasley Denson by Carl J. Artman, the assistant secretary for Indian affairs. He said the tribe's application failed to show the casino was necessary for the tribe's self-determination, economic development or Indian housing. Jackson County is 175 miles from the tribe's primary reservation in Neshoba County, where the tribe already operates two casinos, and Artman said the distance might encourage those who live on the reservation to move for job opportunities.

The Choctaw application was filed in November 2005 for 61 acres along Mississippi 57, adjacent to about 40 acres where the tribe operates a printing plant and plastics business.

Jackson County voters turned down the proposed casino in a non-binding referendum in November. Although Artman's letter didn't specifically address the vote, Supervisor John McKay said he believes the vote influenced the decision.

"The people's voice was heard. This puts another nail in the coffin on the casino. The people of Jackson County voted against it. The governor said he would never vote for it." Now that the federal government rejected the site, "that should put it to rest forever."

"That part of the fight is over," said Eleanor "Cissy" Jordan, who led the Jackson Countians Against Choctaw Gaming. Now she wants residents to support a bill she believes will soon be introduced in the state Legislature to limit casinos to the counties where they are now located, "so we can rest assured that there will never be any casinos in Jackson County."

She worries about other businesses the Choctaws might propose for the Jackson County site. "We need job opportunities. We don't need tax-exempt economic development."

Artman said that although the land didn't qualify for an Indian casino, "It is our hope that the department will be able to work with the tribe to identify economic development opportunities that we can support mutually."
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  #202  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2008, 4:52 AM
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Speculation. I think part of announcing a casino in Jackson County was to try to slow down growth in Harrison. This letter made it clear though, that there will be no casinos off the reservation for the Choctaws. I think Denson will now look west and seriously consider a project in Harrison (most likely in Biloxi)
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  #203  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2008, 9:31 PM
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If he does build one west maybe they will provide a little bit more detail to the project because it didn't look like the most spectacular project from the few renderings.

Sidenote: could this annoucement be the reason the Isle is finally gonna release their expansion plans, and could this also give the Palace enough proof that they could also get started on their plans, because I remember their manager being a big critic of the Choctaw casino.
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  #204  
Old Posted Jan 10, 2008, 5:52 AM
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I think as the article put it that it is the final nail in the coffin to that project, and it will inspire those other casinos to start putting out plans. I am just ready for Bacaran to finally break ground. Even the the Marg. is a much more substantial project, at the rate Barcaran is going, it will open far behind the Marg. which could prove very bad.
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  #205  
Old Posted Jan 10, 2008, 6:15 AM
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Casino, port flare in closed session

Publicity of port expansion at issue
By RYAN LaFONTAINE
rlafontaine@sunherald.com

~Sun Herald

GULFPORT --
A dispute over a planned port expansion turned ugly Tuesday when casino executives walked into a tongue-lashing during a closed-door meeting at the State Port Authority.

From what could be heard through the walls in the lobby, Island View Casino and the port have reached an impasse.

"I'm talking right now; I'm talking," a port commissioner yelled at casino officials.

Island View executives have been the most ardent critics of a massive port expansion, mostly to the west. Until now both sides have managed to maintain a cordial relationship, at least in public.

The addition of more than 100 acres west of the port would devour a large stretch of beachfront directly in front of the Island View, almost to Broad Avenue.

The Port Commission met with Rick Quinn, the casino's vice president of public affairs, and Cathy Beeding, Island View's attorney, Tuesday during an executive session, a type of meeting closed to the public.

Quinn and Beeding believed they were there to discuss the port's plan and to work on a solution with the commission and officials from the Mississippi Development Authority. The port is working with MDA to obtain $600 million in Community Development Block Grant money to help fund the expansion. No one from the MDA attended the meeting.

Just before the executive session, the public was removed from the boardroom and emptied into the lobby at the Port Authority's downtown headquarters on the 14th floor of the Hancock Bank building.

The lobby and the boardroom are separated by a thin, stained-glass wall, which barely muffled the sound, especially shouts and loud arguments, such as those about why and how the port's expansion plan has become so public.

"The first time I heard anything about (the casino's concerns) was by reading the article in the newspaper," a commissioner said to Quinn.

"Your credibility is gone," Beeding confirmed Commissioner John Rester said to her.

The first time Quinn was quoted by the Sun Herald was when he addressed the Gulfport City Council during a meeting last month, which, unlike Tuesday's gathering, was open to the public.

"I didn't go to the newspaper," Quinn told the commission. "I've never called a newspaper or television station in my life."

Casino owner Rick Carter, who has more than $300 million invested in the Island View, recently said the idea of the casino's view of Cat Island being replaced by shipping containers and cargo vessels makes "me sick to my stomach."

The casino and other groups have suggested the port expand to the south, farther into the Sound, but port officials have said such a move would be logistically impossible, mostly because of the water depth in and around the channel.

On Tuesday, through the walls of the boardroom, Port Executive Director Don Allee was heard to hint at another reason for going west.

"The whole thing about the water depth; that's really not the driving force behind this," Allee calmly told casino executives. "It's all about economic justification."

Calls to Allee seeking comment were not returned.
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  #206  
Old Posted Jan 11, 2008, 4:25 PM
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Executives Descends on the Isle

The Isle is expecting executives in from St. Louis this Thursday and Friday to view the new plans for the casino. The Friedmutter Group which also redesigned Islandview, the IP and the much controversial Tivoli Casino has an office in Biloxi.


http://www.friedmuttergroup.com/
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  #207  
Old Posted Jan 12, 2008, 1:00 AM
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Hopefully the meeting with the execs will go over well so the public can see these plans. If they get the same group that remolded the IP, we can expect great things because the IP went from crap to on level with the Beau.
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  #208  
Old Posted Jan 12, 2008, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Velastor View Post
Hopefully the meeting with the execs will go over well so the public can see these plans. If they get the same group that remolded the IP, we can expect great things because the IP went from crap to on level with the Beau.

I agree. The IP recently opened a portion of their land based casino and in an interview on the early edition of WLOX News yesterday, John Lucas said that more land base gaming and restaurants will be opening by Memorial Day. He said that the show room will soon double in size from 700 seats to more than 1400 seats and that the property across Caillavett Street will eventually, in phase II, be home to a second hotel tower, parking garage, retail and convention center. The following is an interview with John Lucas by the SunHerald on the IP's 10th year anniversary.



Posted on Sat, Dec. 29, 2007
IP's 10th year a new beginning
By MARY PEREZ
meperez@sunherald.com


BILOXI -- Hammers and drills heard around the property are evidence the 10th anniversary is another growing year for IP Casino Resort Spa.
On Dec. 30, 1997, the first guests through the doors of the Imperial Palace after months of delays found Las Vegas on the Coast with chandeliers, marble floors, oriental art and gangster Al Capone's 1930 Cadillac V16 limousine.

Trustee Jeffrey Cooper was there as an auditor on opening night. "It was like a circus," he said. The property was still being inspected and no one was sure when it would open.

"People were waiting at the front," he said, and he remembers they swarmed in to play the cash slot machines, which made a huge racket.

General Manager Jon Lucas was hired two months before Hurricane Katrina came ashore and shut down the casino industry. The Back Bay location of the Imperial Palace proved lucky and the IP was the first casino to reopen, Dec. 22, 2005.

Lucas said they looked at what was absolutely necessary to get back into business. "At the same time, we wanted to remodel or renovate away from the Asian theme and go to a more contemporary theme," he said.

Katrina gave them an opportunity, and Cooper said, "How often do you get to make a first impression twice?"

The IP, now operated by the Engelstad Trust, is building back bigger and better, said Lucas. On Christmas Eve a small section of land-based slots opened; in mid-May more of the land-based casino will debut, along with an Asian restaurant, video poker bar and a small shop. "It will just really transform that second floor," he said, "when you get off the parking-garage elevators into a really beautiful area."

Also included in Phase III is remodeling the ballrooms and showroom and adding another meeting room.

"We believe strongly in non-gaming amenities," Lucas said, and the IP plans to offer more entertainment in addition to its spa and restaurants.

"I wish Ralph were alive to see it," Cooper said. Ralph Engelstad, a builder and Las Vegas casino operator, spent $300 million to open the Imperial Palace. He moved in used slots and furniture to save money but Cooper said the resort was built to cater to both average gamblers and high rollers. It now has penthouse suites with designer furniture and high-limit tables.

"In gaming, you can't stand still" or people will stop coming, Cooper said. The master plan includes a hotel tower, new convention space and possibly bowling lanes and movie theaters.

"We can talk about all the bricks and sticks and all the renovations we've done. But in the end the biggest compliment that we get is about our people," said Lucas. When he was hired he vowed to employees, " 'Believe me when I tell you we will give you a place you will be proud of working.' I think we delivered on that."

Last edited by BLX 101; Jan 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM.
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  #209  
Old Posted Jan 14, 2008, 12:25 AM
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Coast Casino Market Continues To Thrive As Others Suffer

Posted on Sun, Jan. 13, 2008
Coast bucks casino trends
By MARY PEREZ
SUN HERALD


-- BILOXI - It's a good bet that when the final gross gambling numbers for 2007 are released this week they will confirm it was a banner year for Coast casinos.
"There's no doubt it will be a record," said Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Early last year he said an ambitious goal was $3 billion for the Mississippi casinos. Although the numbers will fall shy of that magic number, "It's going to be very close," he said.

Mid-month the Mississippi State Tax Commission posts the Casino Gross Gaming Revenue, which is the money gamblers wagered and lost at a casino each month. The December numbers will show both the month and the year-end tally.

Mississippi Gaming Commissioner John Hairston said Coast casino revenues topped $100 million in only one month in 2006. "In 2007 we had only had one month (October) that was below $100 million. We've already exceeded by a long shot the numbers from last year.

"December's always a little slower," Hairston said, and figures are expected to be slightly down from November. The big new is "all the casinos are doing OK." Treasure Bay took the biggest hit from Hurricane Katrina and Hairston said many people wondered if the smaller casino down the street from the Beau Rivage could compete. "We're delighted that they're doing very well."

The numbers aren't so rosy in other states. Atlantic City saw its first yearly decline in 28 years, dropping 5.7 percent after only three casinos posted gains in 2007. At the city's 11 casinos, the same number as on the Coast, revenue sunk from $5.21 billion in 2006 to $4.92 billion this year. The second largest casino market after Las Vegas, Atlantic City lost ground to number three, Mississippi.

Since neighboring Pennsylvania legalized slot machines, "It's taken a lot of business away," said Alan Silver, director of casino resort studies at Tulane University's Gulf Coast Campus. "There's no doubt that Atlantic City is being impacted greatly and the market that used to come from Pennsylvania to Atlantic City is staying home."

The same is happening in Reno and Lake Tahoe, Nev., where Silver visited recently. "A lot of casinos are crying the blues," he said, with business being hurt by casinos opening in California.

Could the same happen in Mississippi? "There is competition," from the expansion of casinos in Florida and other states, said Silver. "You have to look at the market and you have to have a unique market. Different areas sometimes have to reinvent themselves when the market gets competitive."

Las Vegas is doing that by tearing down the old casinos and replacing them with multi-billion dollar resorts. The city and its gross gaming numbers are booming, with more capital projects now under way on the Vegas Strip than the value of those already operating, noted Silver.

Atlantic City casino executives learned a hard lesson. "If you think people are coming to the property just to gamble your really missing it," said Jeff Cooper, trustee at IP Casino Resort, Biloxi. "In gaming you can't stand still." Atlantic City casinos owners are now upgrading their resorts and adding amenities.

Hurricane Katrina forced the Coast to rebuild its casino industry and Hairston said he hopes 2008 will bring more hotel rooms and additional convention and tradeshow business booked as the convention center expansion continues. Among the duties of the Gaming Commission is to create jobs and he hopes to see the 15,000 people now employed in the industry to increase with Bacaran Bay and Bayview casinos in Biloxi and hopefully two casinos in D'Iberville possibly starting construction this year.

He hopes that as hotels, golf, entertainment venues and water attractions are built, "We will see a little more robust type of visitor coming. Ultimately what we want is for a visitor to come down, stay in our hotel rooms, eat at our restaurants, maybe enjoy some time at the tables in our casinos, go fishing with one of our charter boat captains and play three or four rounds of golf."

He is optimistic for 2008 for the casinos but has some concerns. "I'm not as much worried about gas prices as I am a slowing economy," said Hairston. "We have weathered those storms through the '90s quite well. I believe we'll weather it better than the places that are a little harder to get to."



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What's coming?
A look at current and proposed casinos on the Coast:

Beau Rivage - continues to bring in big name entertainment and celebrity events along with meetings and conventions.

Boomtown Casino - will debut the $5 million renovation to the buffet this weekend. A western theme and six cooking stations were added.

Grand Casino Biloxi - recently opened an Asian Gaming Room and a noodle bar, the first large project since the casino reopened after the hurricane.

Hard Rock Casino - New leadership will take over as President Joe Billhimer chose not to renew his contract to pursue new opportunities. His successor should be announced this week.

Hollywood Bay St. Louis - is getting its momentum back and continues to feature entertainment and its Arnold Palmer golf course, the only casino course on property.

Island View Casino - Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse's restaurant continues to attract visitors for the food and the view as the casino owners argue against the Port of Gulfport expanding west and blocking that view.

IP Casino Resort Spa - continues remodeling, opening its first land-based casino areas and preparing to open an Asian restaurant, a retail store and other amenities.

Isle of Capri - is expected to announce soon its master plan for the Biloxi resort. The company abandoned plans to build a casino in West Harrison County and reassessed plans in Biloxi.

Palace Casino - Business noticeably picked up after the first two lanes of the Biloxi Bay Bridge opened and it continues to be a popular destination of tour groups.

Silver Slipper - "Look for big things for Silver Slipper," said General Manager John Ferrucci as plans are finalized for an expansion.

Treasure Bay - opened its new restaurant, lounge and hotel rooms in the tower and work now progresses to the new infinity swimming pool and poolside hotel rooms, that will open this year.

Under Construction

Margaritaville Casino - the world is watching via construction web cams as the $700 million resort rises from the beach in Biloxi. It is due to open in 2010.

Proposed

Bacaran Bay - Torguson Gaming Group is completing preliminary site work and hopes to break ground in the first quarter of '08.

Back Bay Casino - Biloxi City Council will consider the developers' request for a zoning change Tuesday before the proposal goes to the Gaming Commission.

Broadwater Casino - rumors are swirling and Beverly Martin, executive director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association, said, "

'08 might be the year for the Broadwater site."

Choctaw Casino - The Bureau of Indian Affairs ruled this month that the tribe can't build a casino in Jackson County because the proposed site is too far from the primary reservation.

Diamondhead Casino - The corporation that owns 400 acres of land along Interstate 10 is in negotiations to partner with a major casino company and build one or two casinos and other amenities.

Royal D'Iberville Casino - The developers are working with the D'Iberville Planning Commission to finalize plans so construction can begin on the casino with hotel, marina and open-air market.

West D'Iberville Casino - Application to the D'Iberville Planning Commission was made in December and then pulled by the developer of the proposed $250 million casino.
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  #210  
Old Posted Jan 14, 2008, 3:40 PM
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Biloxi Moving Forward In 2008

Posted on Mon, Jan. 14, 2008
BILOXI STILL MOVING FORWARD
By MARY PEREZ
meperez@sunherald.com


BILOXI -- Expect another controversial year in Biloxi as the city continues to repair the damages from Hurricane Katrina and embraces many new opportunities.
The fight to grow the city north will likely continue to upset neighboring municipalities. The school district will need to shift students to other schools to balance the population. Keesler Air Force Base's new commander will oversee base repairs, including the rebuilding of more than 1,000 houses. Developers are rethinking their plans to build condos on the beach and still more developers are contacting the city nearly every day. The need for affordable and senior housing continues to be great.

All these issues were supposed to be sorted out when the city embarked on a comprehensive plan to develop Biloxi's roadmap to the future. In March 2007, the City Council chose a Philadelphia, Pa., firm with extensive experience working with coastal communities to draw the new comprehensive plan for Biloxi.

"We had to reject the bid," said Mayor A.J. Holloway. "It came in too high."

Instead of a total amount, the company bid in the $400,000 to $700,000 range. The Mississippi Development Authority, which is paying for the study, wants a specific price. Rather than getting started, the city has to rebid and begin the process again.

Here is a look at the big picture of where Biloxi is now and what challenges are ahead:

City government

"Every day something good happens," said Holloway. The community center hosted its first Mardi Gras ball over the weekend and projects are starting across the city. Among the most anticipated are the Biloxi Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center, the Popp's Ferry Road extension and the rebuilding of the piers and marinas.

"We have an industry that's hurting there," Holloway said, noting that several charter boats have gone out of business.

"A lot of these projects we hope to be under way quickly in '08," he said. Most of the city wells are still running on generator and the streets, sewers, water lines and storm drains that were damaged in the storm surge will be replaced.

Even as the city rebuilds, it needs to prepare for future development. Holloway said he met with D'Iberville officials to try to reach an out-of-court agreement on land both cities are trying to incorporate. They discussed a compromise that D'Iberville originally rejected but later said it would negotiate.

An east-west corridor through Harrison County will take a long time, said Holloway, although a committee met with the governor in December to try to get funding for an environmental assessment study, which is the first step. Another bridge across the Back Bay also is being studied.

Biloxi School District

Enrollment in East Biloxi elementary schools is still down, said Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale. Gorenflo is at half of its pre-Katrina numbers, Nichols at 60 percent and Lopez at 70 percent.

Only 700 of the 1,300 military dependents, most of whom lived at the base, have returned. The buildup will be gradual over the next 30 months as housing opens at Keesler.

Although North Bay Elementary is using 10 modular units in addition to the 40 classrooms, "We're not overcrowded," Tisdale said.

More students attended the school before the storm and the pupil to teacher ratio is about 17 to 1, "which is what it is in other classrooms throughout the district. Capacity is almost beside the point. We're looking at pupil/teacher ratio."

At some point, he said, "We will have to rezone our elementary schools," and bus some students south of the bay. The question is, "which students and to which elementary school?"

Some parents object to this because they don't want their children going to a different school but Tisdale said more of a concern is the time classes start. The schools operate on a rolling basis with one-third starting at 7:20 a.m., the next beginning at 8:10 and the North Bay classes starting at 8:40.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board will consider moving ninth-grade students to the high school campus, the seventh-grade students into the junior high and the sixth-graders out of the elementary schools and into the seventh-grade building.

Tisdale said the move would make room for pre-kindergarten classes that could be financed by casino revenue from Biloxi casinos under construction or proposed.

Although the district has 50 fewer teachers after the storm, he said none were laid off and students have continued to excel, with the high school named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Keesler Air Force Base

Col. Greg Touhill said the current mission of Keesler is to "rebuild the base, renew the community and reload the Air Force," training personnel for missions around the world.

He and Vice Commander Col. Richard Pierce did a walk-through on the first three of 1,028 homes that are being rebuilt as part of the largest military family housing project in the history of the Air Force.

A Division Street gate that would move some of the Keesler traffic off Beach Boulevard is still conceptual, Touhill said, and would require federal government financing.

Developers

Condo projects in Biloxi were approved last year but never built. Mike Boudreaux, president of Gulf Coast Investment Developers in Biloxi, said he is optimistic more of these projects will begin this year.

"Construction costs have come down. Insurance has come down. Labor costs have come down," which he said was the biggest expense after Katrina.

Several condo projects, including Sea Breeze and Aqua, were redesigned to smaller units in the 500- to 850-square-feet range that are more affordable. Originally priced at up to $600,000, the new units sell for around $350,000.

Several developers are considering building combination condotels and hotels, Boudreaux said, with traditional hotel rooms on the lower floors and condotel units above.

Community development

Director Jerry Creel said developers who were waiting for the FEMA flood elevations are beginning architectural drawings and have target dates to begin.

"We have a lot of development happening in Biloxi," and Creel said he has constant phone calls, e-mails and visits from developers.

Work is under way all over the city, with Dillards opening this spring at the Edgewater Mall and the Popp's Ferry and Cedar Lake roads intersection in North Biloxi a continued hot spot. Creel hopes East Biloxi will "develop into the resort destination that everyone has envisioned."

He also sees residential areas in East Biloxi, especially around Division Street where the ground is higher. Commercial developments like casinos and apartment buildings can comply with the more stringent flood elevations and building codes in the higher risk areas, he said.

Biloxi Housing Authority

Director Bobby Hensley said by late January, the Biloxi Housing Authority will have homes to sell. "This is the first time we've done home ownership units," he said and the properties in East Biloxi are between two and four bedrooms.

"We're trying to keep properties affordable for people," which makes development north on Interstate 10 difficult until central sewer and water is available. "We definitely will be building more senior housing," he said, possibly on land near the beach at U.S. 90 and Brody Drive.

The authority also is looking at housing along Main and Division streets.

Holloway said between the casino numbers, the billion dollars of building permits issued since the storm and the Biloxi Bay Bridge reopening all lanes in April, "this all tells the rest of the county that Biloxi is indeed coming back bigger and better."
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  #211  
Old Posted Jan 14, 2008, 4:30 PM
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Disappointing But Encouraging News At The Isle

This morning I learned from my Supervisor that after viewing the redesigned casino plans, the new president granted an extension to the design team to make additional upgrades/changes to the Isle's master plan. She is intent on building a project that will be viable and competitive with Margaritaville and others that are soon to move into this growing market. I also heard a very interesting rumor.....the Donald may be acquiring the Palace. He has been trying to gain access to this market for more than a decade. His initial plans to acquire and expand Marine Life with a mega casino resort at the Gulfport Harbor was met with great opposition from the Harbor Commission. Most recently, his letter of intent to partner with the Diamondhead Group to build a casino off I-10 in Hancock County was anulled.
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  #212  
Old Posted Jan 14, 2008, 6:18 PM
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Umm unless the Isle is either going up or across the street, it will be hard for them to compete with the spread Margaritaville is going to offer. I still look forward to any improvements.

The Palace is in a nice spot to expand with no buildings around it. Would be a nice fit with all of his other properties.

I really wish some real news would come from the Broadwater property other than....this year might be the year we talk about it.
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  #213  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2008, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Velastor View Post
Umm unless the Isle is either going up or across the street, it will be hard for them to compete with the spread Margaritaville is going to offer. I still look forward to any improvements.

The Isle's focus is not to be the biggest but to offer the best customer service. Adding retail, clubs and other entertainment venues would be a plus. They were well known for their convention business prior to Katrina. Currently the main casino floor is occupying the convention space but plans are to restore that valuable asset.
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  #214  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2008, 3:31 PM
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Posted on Tue, Jan. 15, 2008
South Mississippi in good shape for future
By LISA MONTI
lamonti@sunherald.com


-- Growth this year in the Gulfport-Biloxi metro area should "easily outpace" the national economy, says a new report by Moody's Economy.com.
The analysis of the area's strengths and weaknesses, prepared at the end of last year, said the economy in Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties "took a turn for the better, reversing course at the midway point" of 2007. The area's employment growth ranked first in the nation and projected third through 2011.

"Growth (in the metro area) will easily outpace the nation in the near term, as favorable demographic trends from individuals returning to the area drive the economic recovery," wrote Nathan Topper, the report's author.

"From the service industry standpoint, the casinos have definitely been the ones that have led the way," said Larry Barnett, executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission.

On the manufacturing side, he said, Soprema, Gulf Ship, Trinity Yachts, U.S. Marine, Northrop Grumman, Seeman Composites and Future Pipe have all made investments in their facilities.

The outlook for Jackson and George counties, though not as robust as their neighbors, is still strong, thanks to the industrial fortunes of shipbuilders and manufacturers, the report said.

"Pascagoula's economy has gained momentum over the past few months," Topper wrote.

The Katrina effect is still being felt, most obviously in the lack of housing and, on the upside, in the potential from government incentives such as the Gulf Opportunity Act.

"With only about 25 percent of the funding designated for Mississippi being disbursed so far, the benefits of this plan will continue to be realized," the report said of the GO Zone.

Among the strengths cited for the metro area were casinos rebuilding larger than before, exposure to a growing export market and a stable military presence, including upgrades at Keesler Air Force Base.

Legal battles with insurance companies and slow rebuilding were listed on the downside of the forecast by researchers.

For Pascagoula, the high points were a good outlook for the shipping industry, including Northrop Grumman's defense contracts, and the Chevron expansion.

Weaknesses were little diversity for the economy and housing affordability.
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  #215  
Old Posted Jan 16, 2008, 4:43 AM
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Originally Posted by BLX 101 View Post
This morning I learned from my Supervisor that after viewing the redesigned casino plans, the new president granted an extension to the design team to make additional upgrades/changes to the Isle's master plan. She is intent on building a project that will be viable and competitive with Margaritaville and others that are soon to move into this growing market. I also heard a very interesting rumor.....the Donald may be acquiring the Palace. He has been trying to gain access to this market for more than a decade. His initial plans to acquire and expand Marine Life with a mega casino resort at the Gulfport Harbor was met with great opposition from the Harbor Commission. Most recently, his letter of intent to partner with the Diamondhead Group to build a casino off I-10 in Hancock County was anulled.
I am expecting you to step it up and get them on the ball. I want something incredible, 4 diamonds maybe 5 .

The donald taking over. I think it would be very interesting, but I guess he could build one of his gold towers in the sky. I can't wait to get some interesting news out of somewhere
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  #216  
Old Posted Jan 16, 2008, 4:44 AM
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Originally Posted by BLX 101 View Post
Posted on Sun, Jan. 13, 2008

Boomtown Casino - will debut the $5 million renovation to the buffet this weekend. A western theme and six cooking stations were added.
Look for a hotel to be introduced by the end of 08
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Old Posted Jan 16, 2008, 4:46 AM
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Isle exec replaces Hard Rock friend

By MARY PEREZ
meperez@sunherald.com

BILOXI --Duncan McKenzie is the new rock star at Hard Rock Casino Biloxi, taking over management of the resort Monday from his friend, Joe Billhimer.

"This is a great property, great brand," said McKenzie, who resigned last week as regional vice president of Isle of Capri Inc. to take the job of president and general manager of Hard Rock.

"I'm excited to carry it to the next level."

Billhimer chose not to renew his contract as chief executive officer and for the next couple of months will stay with Hard Rock's owner, Premier Entertainment Biloxi, to help with the transition.

"I want to look at other developments here on the Coast," he said. "I like the development role. There's a lot of projects out there. They just need a little push."

Billhimer has shown his ability to complete projects by overseeing the building of Hard Rock, then doing it all again after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it two days shy of opening.

"It was mentally and physically draining," he said.

McKenzie was his choice as a successor "because he can do all facets of the job," said Billhimer. "He's the right person at the right time. Hopefully, the foundation of the business is very well entrenched," both the Hard Rock brand and the casino.

McKenzie's goals will be to continue to grow the business and to continue to look at expansion projects already being explored, Billhimer said.

"Joe and I have been friends for years," said McKenzie.

He was manager of the Grand Biloxi when Billhimer managed the Grand Gulfport.

Both are committed to the Coast.

"I plan to do everything in the world I can to stay on the Coast," said Billhimer, who was married here and is raising his family in Pass Christian.

After moving many times while raising their family, McKenzie said he and his wife decided, "This is where we wanted to stay."

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BLX, looks like Isle lost a good guy. I have met McKenzie actually, and I bet he will grow the Rock
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Old Posted Jan 17, 2008, 11:20 PM
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Look for a hotel to be introduced by the end of 08

I was recently told that Boomtown may be about to reveal plans for a 400-600 room hotel.
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  #219  
Old Posted Jan 17, 2008, 11:40 PM
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I am expecting you to step it up and get them on the ball. I want something incredible, 4 diamonds maybe 5 .

The Isle held a State of the Property Address...so-to-speak...yesterday for all employees. Given the fact that I work graves, I did not attend but was filled in by my supervisor during our daily briefing. Plans call for construction to resume soon and that the parking garage will have to be reconfiguered and expanded. The older section of the hotel will be renovated simultaneously with the construction of the new casino. The project is scheduled to be completed before Margaritavilles opening. Hopefully the specifics will be released soon.
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Old Posted Jan 18, 2008, 3:20 AM
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The report that Biloxi broke the 1 billion mark in revenue should spur a lot of development for those that were waiting to see if the market would return.

About Boomtown, supposedly all development of Penn National properties is suspended till they become a private company. While it didn't stop the new buffet, which I hope to get to visit during spring break, it will probably prevent something that would cost more than just a few million. So if they get all the approvals to go private quickly, then maybe we will see that hotel soon and maybe some touch ups to the Hollywood BSL.

Also the Silverslipper is suppose to be adding a hotel and other ammenities as well soon.
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