Casino Execs Could Buy, Rebuild Apartments

Bill Kilduff started his speech to the Biloxi Chamber with a joke about having to learn a second language.

"Buenos dias," he said with a smile. "Sorry, I had a flashback to an orientation we had last week on our property."

In his resort's kitchen, and around his hotel are 115 Hispanic workers. The Isle of Capri hired the contract employees to fill jobs that have been vacant since the casino reopened.

"The labor market is really tough," Kilduff said. "I kid everybody, we have a lot of bosses around, but we don't have many workers."

One of the problems is the affordable housing shortage. Katrina wiped out several apartments and rental houses that casino employees leased. Consequently, the one's who want to come back home and go back to work have no where to live.

"We're looking at possibly purchasing or building some apartment complexes or other areas where can house people," said Kilduff.

The Isle boss was joined on the podium by IP's Jon Lucas.

"We're looking at the same thing at IP as far as alternatives to providing housing for our associates," said Lucas.

If Lucas and Kilduff resolve the housing issue, they're confident their industry will grow and prosper beyond anybody's wildest expectations.

"We are here to help to make Biloxi bigger and better than pre-Katrina," Lucas said.

By 2010, Lucas thinks coast casinos could be a two billion dollar a year industry. Kilduff is preparing for that possibility.

"We know that there's a lot of competition coming. We think we're poised for it. And we think it will be great for the coast," the Isle's general manager said.

In December, the IP, the Isle of Capri and the Palace Casino were able to reopen. Grand Casino Biloxi and Beau Rivage should have their hurricane damage repaired by the end of the summer.