If casinos are here to stay, move them inland - Tuesday 29th of April 2008

Could the rising tide of the Mississippi River force a reexamination of some old rules?

In the wee hours on Sunday morning, the City of Natchez forced the closure of the Isle of Capri Casino due to floodwater encroaching the Isle’s landing at Natchez Under-the-Hill.

With the closure a large chunk of taxes floated away, too.

City and state leaders have become dependent upon gaming taxes; losing that money — even if for a brief time — is going to hurt.

City officials were correct in closing the Isle. Safety should come first, but safety can be costly, too.

Mayor Phillip West last week estimated the Isle’s taxes brought between $800,000 and $1 million annually to the city.

Just doing the raw math — the Isle’s closure will cost the city between $15,000 and $19,000 each week its closed.

With the river not expecting to crest for almost another week, we anticipate the casino is likely to be closed at least two weeks, perhaps more. Fortunately for Isle workers, the company has said it will continue to pay their employees as if the casino was still operating.

Floods like the one we’re experiencing have a way of forcing us all to see things in different ways and consider different options.

Perhaps the flood of 2008 will be one that forces the state to reexamine the requirement that all casinos — save the three coast counties and ones on Native American lands — have their gaming floors physically on water.

It’s been 16 years since the first casino in Mississippi opened. Much has changed in that time, but has our attitude toward the gaming industry and the restrictions on where casinos must be located?

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