LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — When Magnolia Bluffs Casino opened Tuesday, it joined the Isle of Capri Casino and Natchez became a two-casino town.

Expert: Two casinos must work together

Published 12:07am Sunday, December 23, 2012

NATCHEZ — Natchez’s riverfront has a long history of being a place where gambling and fighting went hand in hand.

Such history underscores the near certainty in the minds of many locals that two competing casinos — one a long fixture, the other the hot-shot new kid on the block — would be on track to duke it out soon.

Many local businesspeople won’t say so publicly, but privately most say Tuesday’s opening of Magnolia Bluffs Casino will greatly impact the existing Isle of Capri Casino, and most think a battle is looming.

“I’ve said all along that I think the two of them will do well for the first six months or a year,” Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said last week. “Then we’ll see what remains in terms of what they eat into the Isle of Capri’s business or what they bring in new.”

Brown’s comments — and others who think like him, but don’t want to say it publicly — make sense in way, both historically and practically.

Both casinos are within sight of the location where Jim Bowie’s famous sandbar fight was believed to have occurred in 1827.

But is a competitive fight to the death inevitable for the businesses?

Perhaps, but only if the local casino market is the sole target for business, a former University of Southern Mississippi professor, researcher and author said this week.

“Those two casinos actually have to work together,” said Dr. Denise Runge, now provost of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. “If I were advising the CEOs of these companies, I’d say, ‘You guys need to do some joint marketing.’”

Runge isn’t just an academic who “thinks” she knows about Mississippi casinos. She led extensive research projects on Mississippi casinos several years ago and edited a book on the subject, “Resorting to Casinos: The Mississippi Gambling Industry,” University Press of Mississippi, 2006, under her pre-marriage last name, von Herrmann.

Runge says rather than fighting over the local pie and effectively offering no growth to the local economy, the two casinos could benefit by cooperating.

“You need to pick the most likely markets in Louisiana and Arkansas and do some joint marketing there,” she said, adding that much of her research across Mississippi’s gaming industry was looking at whether or not the industry created a positive economic impact on the state.

“If it primarily attracts Mississippians and locals, it’s not going to have a positive impact on Mississippi.”

Runge compared building a new casino to draw from the same pool of gamblers much like building a new movie theater or restaurant.

“We don’t expect building a new movie theater to create economic growth in the community,” she said. “It’s entertainment and it’s fun, but you need to attract non-Mississippians.”

The key to true economic growth from gaming, Runge said, is through getting out-of-town gamblers to come to town and do other things beyond just gambling.

“Particularly if they will stay longer than two days,” she said. “Over two days, they’re doing more than gambling. They’re fueling up their cars with gasoline, they’re doing other things that have economic impact in the community.”

A prime example of this, she said, is the event Cruisin‘ the Coast on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“The casinos are heavily involved in Cruisin‘ the Coast because these folks are going to stay there and some will go and gamble,” she said.

“While Natchez is a tourism site, its location is less convenient for travel to Natchez by non-Mississippi residents,” she said. “They have to increase the attractiveness of the locale.

“The Natchez CVB could easily facilitate that kind of marketing effort.”

Regardless of whether or not the two casinos view one another as potential partners or mortal enemies, a few things are likely to change either way.

“The introduction of the new one will almost assuredly cause renovation and expansion of the other one,” Runge said.

Also, just having two options rather than one may help attract more out-of-area gamblers to town, former Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said.

“When you have a choice, it’s better,” he said. “Most people want to go somewhere where they have a choice, an option.”

  • Anonymous

    Good idea. Now let’s see if we can get Burger King and McDonalds to be best friends and work together. How ’bout Pepsi and Coca Cola? Vegas and Reno? Heinz and Hunts? Natchez and Vidalia?
    Look for one to close its’ doors. JMO

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t have been said better! These people are trying to put each other out of business. They’re not here to help each other. You would think the Democrat could figure this out since they are in advertising. THEY DON’T want to run ads together.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Lets be real about this for your comparing little ole Natchez to the coast and there isn’t no way of comparison with interstates hwy. larger population and 4 cities as well spread apart!! Lived in Natchez all my life have been in my own businesses and if you aren’t in the click of Natchez they aren’t going to support you which is shameful and this is one reason many professional people have left Adams county. These two casinos are in business to make money and to put each other out of business but I feel strongly for competition and this will be a good point for the people of Natchez if not the tourist??!! Maybe Vidalia could get another casino on their side would juice it up huh”??!~!

  • Anonymous

    “if you aren’t in the click of Natchez they aren’t going to support you which is shameful” So true. In the past you would be blackballed, shunned, and possibly burned out. I’ve seen it too many times with the “old Natchez” crowd. These casinos will work together like Obama and Oboehner.

  • Anonymous

    THERE’LL BE JUST FINE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID TO GO DOWN THERE. BUILD UP SOME MAN-HOOD AND GET OUT THERE WHERE THE ACTION IS. YOU NEED TO GO DOWN ON THE COAST WHERE CASINOS ARE LINED UP BACK TO BACK. CASINOS ARE ABOUT BUSINESS, THEY DON’T SEE COLOR LIKE YOU DO, EVERY ONE IS >GREENIN YOUR EYE SIGHT< THAT'S WORKING WELL IN THE COMMUNITY IS THE KING. COULD YOU IMAGINE WHAT THE COMMUNITY WOULD LOOK LIKE IF JUST YOU AND THE KING WERE IN CHARGE ? WILD-WILD-WEST WOULD HAVE NO COMPARISON.

  • Anonymous

    I have always argued against such claims of a ” Natchez Mafia”, which controls most things in this city. I am slowly changing my mind. I have had too many good people relate stories of trying to “break into” the Natchez scene, only to be denied and turned away. Hmmmm. But that hasnothing to do with the subject,…or does it.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    There have always been a Natchez Mafia and the Natchez way that’s past down!!

    In a message dated 12/23/2012 3:29:11 P.M. Central Standard Time, notifications@disqus.net writes:

    (http://disqus.com/)

    burnleyc wrote, in response to khakirat:
    I have always argued against such claims of a ” Natchez Mafia”, which controls most things in this city. I am slowly changing my mind. I have had too many good people relate stories of trying to “break into” the Natchez scene, only to be denied and turned away. Hmmmm. But that hasnothing to do with the subject,…or does it.

    _Link to comment_ (http://redirect.disqus.com/url?url=http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/2012/12/23/expert-two-casinos-must-work-together/#comment-74633914 1:vAyGM3fhzA6PQR7EvoyY1gAOkNc&imp=7fbfaa24-0ae2-42af-8413-92ae62a23dc2&zone= notifications.clicks&forum=natchezdemocrat&thread=988390401)

  • Anonymous

    DD LEAVE IT TO YOU TO MENTION “THERE’LL” COLOR…….