Casinos reopen after Katrina, off to a good start

(Biloxi, Miss.-AP) February 24, 2006 - Mississippi officials were betting that if some of the Gulf casinos reopened quickly, people would come, and it was a hunch that paid off.

Rich Westfall, the community development manager at the Isle of Capri casino, says in January the gaming industry generated $64 million in revenue, much of it from the three casinos that have reopened. By comparison, revenue in January of last year was $114 million at the 12 casinos that were then operating.

The Isle of Capri was the first casino to reopen after Katrina.

Westfall says its barge was destroyed, the parking garage took a heavy hit, and wind and rain damage destroyed the lobby of the hotel tower, 40 feet above high tide level.

Mississippi legislators passed a law permitting onshore gaming in order to get the casinos back in business. They had a stake in doing so, the state collected a half million dollars a day in gaming taxes before Katrina.

Westfall expects another three or four casinos to open by the end of this year. Some casinos won't decide what to do until their insurance issues are ironed out.

Posted 1:04pm by Bryce Mursch