Isle's founder passes away

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's gaming industry is mourning the loss of its pioneer.  The Isle's Bernard Goldstein has died after a short battle with cancer.

Goldstein was widely considered the father of dockside gambling, because he was the first casino executive to gamble on Biloxi.  Rich Westfall was with the Isle of Capri when it opened on Point Cadet in 1992.

"Bernie Goldstein probably was the smartest, the kindest, and the most demanding," remembered Westfall.  "He was Bernie.  He was the patriarch, the leader, the visionary, the person that came in with the ideas and never said no."

Westfall's job was to market those ideas.  The former Isle executive has a collection of pictures in his new office from his 18 years with Bernie Goldstein in both Iowa and Biloxi.

"He was so visionary.  It was just uncanny," he said.

It was Goldstein who pulled up anchor in Iowa and brought two riverboats to Point Cadet in Biloxi.  Kathy Stevens came along for the ride.  And 17 years later, she's still with the company.

"We believed in him and took a chance," she said.  "And I'm glad we did.  And yes, we've come a long way.  And those who have followed him have been very successful."

On August 1, 1992, Goldstein signed the license that made the Isle of Capri Mississippi's first dockside casino.  At that time, the gambling was done on the Emerald Lady and the Diamond Lady riverboats.

A lot has changed since then.  For instance, the riverboats are gone, replaced by a land based casino resort inside the property's hotel.  Even the Isle of Capri name that Goldstein carefully chose has been shortened to just The Isle.  What hasn't changed, notes Westfall, is the marketing mantra that Goldstein always instilled in his staff.

"We might not be the biggest.  But we were the best," Westfall said.

Stevens is proud to be considered part of Goldstein's extended family.

"He was one of those leaders that made you feel part of the team no matter what your job title was," she said.

When Isle executives talk about Mr. Goldstein, they refer to his benevolence.  Doug Shipley is The Isle's current general manager.

"After Katrina, he made sure the team members were paid not only from the point of closure of the property, but up until the time that we opened in December.  That was one of his goals," said Shipley.

Another goal, noted Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, was to make sure the property and the city made money.

"He was an eloquent man.  I tell you, he loved Biloxi," said Holloway.

The city has leased Point Cadet property to The Isle since it opened.  So city leaders had several face-to-face discussions with Goldstein.

"Biloxi was his favorite I think, at least he told me that," remembered Holloway.  "He wanted to do everything he could to make this Isle a success, for the Isle's sake and for the city of Biloxi."

Bernie Goldstein once called himself a scrap dealer who did good.  The Iowa native was 80-years-old.

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