Heard It On The River - Thursday 15th of December 2005

While many casino goers are busy this time of year with shopping and holiday parties, I find it is one the best times of the year to play as you can get on the tables you like, play your favorite slot and in general take advantage of a historically quiet time at casinos. And when you are there, don't forget to tip those folks who give you great service. They can use the extra funds this time of year.

I just played recently in GRAND'S $150,000 blackjack tournament and it drew nearly 200 players, a little off from previous attendance but a solid turnout in view of the holiday season. This event gets better and better each time with a wonderful reception and first class gifts for players. Wandering out from the reception lugging the gift, a quality travel bag on wheels, I wondered aloud how I was to carry it all night while hitting the tables.

"I'll take care of it, " a voice called out from nowhere, actually just behind me. "And who may you be, kind sir?" It turned out to be ROB BROWN, director of hotel services and although his gesture was unexpected it was certainly welcome. Sort of reminded me a professional concierge in a New York hotel. Rob did indeed take my bag and when I returned to my room later that night, voila, there it was. Rob gets my coveted "ATTABOY AWARD." It's all about service and this was service at its best.

During the tournament, where I was chip leader for 23 hands twice, but failed to get the cards in the critical three closing hands, I met KENNETH SMITH who runs perhaps the best blackjack site on the Internet. If you are a serious player or want to be, go to Blackjackinfo.com. Ken is one the best tournament players it the country so he knows what he is talking about. DARRELL PILANT has been named VP of Operations at Grand where his responsibilities will include overseeing table games and slot operations, as well as the customer satisfaction assurance department. With all the excursions coming into the Tunica Airport under a very aggressive Harrah's program, he will have his hands full.

Down south on the beleaguered Gulf Coast, the IMPERIAL PALACE looks like it will fully reopen on Dec. 20 to be followed by the ISLE OF CAPRI on Dec. 26 and Palace Casino on Dec. 30. It has also been reported that ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., will relocate its international corporate headquarters to St. Louis. Also on the Coast, it has been reported that GOLDEN NUGGET, may build another property at Point Cadet between the Palace and Isle of Capri. And Florida developer Charles Cato is seeking permission to locate the Emerald Star casino near Natchez.

It's not too late to aid the relief effort for HURRICANE KATRINA victims. Harrah's Entertainment is staging a benefit for rescue workers with a "Hurricane Heroes Salute" on Dec. 18 at the casino's Event Center. Scheduled to appear are WAYNE NEWTON, CRIS ISSAK, comedy star PAUL RODRIGUEZ, and singers LEE ANY WOMACK and BRITTANY MURPHY, with more to come. Tickets are $50 to $100, with all proceeds going to the Mississippi Law Enforcement and Firefighter Katrina Relief Fund, a non-profit that serves troops, police and firefighters. There will be a private reception before the benefit with Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. General Russel Honore, and Maj. Gen. Harold Cross of the Mississippi National Guard. Wayne Newton and other entertainers will also be there for the $500 VIP ticket event. Call 800-946-4946, ext. 3060 for more information or go to Ticketmaster.com

The recent TERMINEX LION'S HEART INVITATIONAL hosted by our boy JOHN DALY and HARRAH'S ENTERTAINMENT, was very successful for the PORTER-LEATH CHILDREN'S CENTER, PALMER HOME for CHILDREN, and the John Daly Foundation. In addition to hosting the events for an in-kind contribution of over $100,000, Harrah's contributed $50,000 cash to the Daly Foundation.

SILVER STAR CASINO at Pearl River Resorts had another big winner recently when SHAUNA PINKNEY from Millbrook, Alabama hit a dollar WHEEL OF FORTUNE progressive MegaJackpot for $1,500,894. Happy Holiday shopping, Shauna. It was the second jackpot over a million bucks paid out in a month at the Choctaw Band resort.

Here's a gambling problem. A $200,000 state-funded program in Tennessee to help people who are addicted to gambling on the state lottery has a problem attracting customers. It's been estimated there are 18,000 problem gamblers in Middle Tennessee but only 350 have been screened and only 12 have gone on to receive counseling. If you have a problem, there is help nearby. Call the GAMBLING CLINIC at the U. of Memphis…901-678-STOP (7867).

LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER.

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