Casino Barges Are Getting Old

When salt water acts like a termite and eats through a casino barge, Duncan McKenzie calls the exterminator.

"We're essentially replacing the entire barge floor," he said, describing the work being done inside his barge to stablize it.

Every coast casino is built on a barge. So the games are above the shoreline. And the barge is always submerged in water. Everyday, salt water eats away at the floating platform. Experts say a casino barge should only last 15-20 years. Most coast casinos are approaching that window.

"So it's something that can't be ignored," McKenzie said. "You've gotta do it," to extend the life of the barge.

Gaming commission chairman Len Blackwell thinks it should be the state's responsibility to protect Harrison and Hancock Counties multi-million dollar investments from storms and deterioration.

"We should codify some means by which they could fix themselves to the land in those limited areas," he said at a forum called by the Secretary of State.

Industry leaders think the casino basin idea proposed by Golden Gulf would accomplish that. At this point, you may be wondering what other options are available. One general manager said he may have to close his resort, take his barge to dry dock, and repair it there.

Mayor A.J. Holloway thinks if that happens, it could be as devastating to Biloxi as a category four hurricane.

"If we don't have this income in particular, we're through," said the mayor.

Grand Casino Biloxi would be through if it didn't have its barge. That's why it's spending nearly $5 million to restore its barge, so it has new life for another 10-15 years.

On Thursday, the Secretary of State set up a committee to look at whether the state should move coast casinos off the shoreline and into manmade basins. A timetable for that committee to formulate a recommendation has not be established.