Auction Ends Bad Gamble For President - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/20/05

Auction Ends Bad Gamble For President

Shamus Tessmer stood behind a President Casino blackjack dealer.

"How long have you been here," the director of table games asked the dealer.

Tessmer tried to make Thursday a normal day for his associates.

"We've still got a job to do. We've got guests to entertain," he said.

But Tessmer admitted entertaining was hard knowing his casino's future -- and maybe his future -- were on the auction block in St. Louis. He told one gambler a WLOX News crew was in the casino "because we're getting new owners today."

Because of that fact, there was a slightly different mood inside the President.

"Everybody's anxious," he said.

The original President Casino was a riverboat. It became a building on water in 1995. A year later, President executives tried to sell off most of their resort. Primadonna Resorts had a $41 million agreement to buy the Broadwater Resort, the marina and the golf course. But by the fall of 1996, that deal fell apart.

In March, 1998, the President announced an ambitious overhaul of its Biloxi resort.

Back then, the head of the President was John Aylsworth. He told WLOX News the new design would be "unique not only to this region but unique to the entire United States."

The plan was for one casino and an aging hotel to be replaced by six casinos, and just as many new hotels. President executives envisioned a $2 billion destination resort that would help the Broadwater reclaim its status as the gulf coast's flagship resort.

Leigh MacConnell is a President executive. She worked at Broadwater during its heyday.

"It's actually the most wonderful thing I think that's ever happened to the Broadwater," she said in 1998. Despite its creative designs, the project never got the support it needed.

By July 2002, the President had no other choice. Company executives filed for bankruptcy, hoping reorganization plans could save the Biloxi casino resort. It didn't work. Now employees like Shamus Tessmer are betting on an auction to somehow save their casino.

"I have no reason why it wouldn't," a hopeful Tessmer said.

There are still many unanswered questions about what happens next to the President and the Broadwater. Some people have speculated that the winning bidder would keep the casino open, but would turn the property around it into condominiums. The original Broadwater Beach Hotel opened in 1939.

by Brad Kessie

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