Industry Insiders React To Harrah's Putting Biloxi Plans On Hold - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Industry Insiders React To Harrah's Putting Biloxi Plans On Hold

Palace Casino General Manger Keith Crosby understands well the challenges of casino development in post-Katrina Biloxi.  

"Escalated construction costs are obvious," says Crosby. "It's something we've encountered and wrestled with ourselves."

But he feels there may be an even bigger reason why his casino neighbor Harrah's is delaying its September 2005 pledge to "build something spectacular" where the Biloxi Grand Casino once stood.  

"The Choctaw development," says Crosby. "And that is a significant development that, we've been saying for the past two or three weeks, is going to have an effect on the development over here in Harrison and Hancock County. And, I think, what you're seeing is the first evidence of that."  

"Yeah, this was it. This was casino row," former President and CEO of Treasure Bay Casino Bernie Burkholder says while standing along side Highway 90. "This is where it was all happening."

He believes Harrah's reluctance to move forward in Biloxi is a blow to the area's recovery.  

"If I were an operator on this end of town, I would want that energy back. I would want that synergy."  

Burkholder says another factor to consider is Harrah's ownership or control of so much east Biloxi property. He says that effectively means that unless, or until they rebuild, no one else can either. And that would bring further development along Biloxi's Casino Row to a virtual standstill.

"They're buying Casino Magic," says Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway. "They're buying property from all the way from Oak Street to Pine Street, all the way to Howard Avenue."

That's why Mayor Holloway believes something spectacular is still coming, only later rather than sooner.  

"They own a tremendous foot print right now. So I don't think they'd continue buying if they didn't have some plans there."

Mayor Holloway also speculates that a proposed buyout of Harrah's by two private equity firms may have also played a part in the delay.

by Don Culpepper

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