Ivan Forces Casinos To Close - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/14/04

Ivan Forces Casinos To Close

A gambler walked up the Pirate's Alley and tried to board Treasure Bay. But he got stopped by a security guard. "Sir, we're closed," she told him. The man laughed and said, "I left all them hurricanes in Florida. And I came up here to get away from them."

What was that man's nightmare is now Treasure Bay's worst nightmare -- and it's swirling in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Treasure Bay CEO Bernie Burkholder, "Prudence tells us to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best."

On two previous occasions, hurricanes ripped apart the pirate ship casino. Costly repairs and lengthy closures ate up profits. Treasure Bay tried moving to a safer location. But a judge blocked those plans. Now, the fear is that the monstrous Ivan could pack the punch that wallops Treasure Bay for good. "There's always that chance," said Burkholder. "But like I said, I'm hopeful. I want to walk back here and have a property that will reopen. And I'm just hoping it's a minimal amount of work. One way or another that's what my hope is now."

The gaming commission ordered all casinos closed -- so guests could evacuate, and employees could hurricane proof their barges. Rodney Deroeun is one of those employees. He's praying that Ivan spares Treasure Bay's games, it's barge, and his job. "I know we're going to be way prepared better than last time," he said, referring to the Isidore and Lili storms in 2002 that closed Treasure Bay for 17 days. "But a storm of this category could really hurt not just this casino, but all the casinos."

Burkholder knows his industry is at Ivan's mercy. "I mean, we just gotta wait and see. I think the one thing is painfully obvious is just the degree of uncertainty with this storm," he said.

This was the fifth time in 12 years the gaming commission had to close the casinos so they could safely ride out a storm.

by Brad Kessie

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