Isle of Capri no stranger to Natchez

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 7, 1999

With Isle of Capri Casinos’ plans to buy Lady Luck Casino Corp., Natchez is coming full circle in its gaming history. Isle of Capri CEO&160;Bernard Goldstein courted Natchez in the early 1990s, even securing a license from the Mississippi Gaming Commission to build a casino on the Mississippi River.

But although Riverboat Cruises of Mississippi, with Goldstein as chairman, had a deal in 1991 with the City of Natchez to build an $18 to $20 million casino development on city property.

Goldstein’s company was the first to bring riverboat gambling back to the Mississippi River when his Steamboat Casino River Cruise’s launched the Diamond Lady in Bettendorf, Iowa, in April 1991.

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But Goldstein’s Natchez deal fell through, and Lady Luck built a dockside casino in the city in 1993.

Now Isle of Capri has announced plans to buy Lady Luck, bringing Natchez’s casino into a larger company which already has operations in Vicksburg, Biloxi and Tunica, as well as four others in Louisiana and Colorado.

Under the deal, valued at $400 million, Lady Luck’s common shareholders will receive $12 per share for a consideration of about $59 million, and Isle of Capri will assume all of Lady Luck’s outstanding debt – about $177 million.

The agreement also provides for the redemption of Lady Luck’s outstanding preferred stock in the amount of approximately $22 million. Closing is expected in the first half of 2000.

The deal still must be approved by Lady Luck shareholders and gaming commissions in Nevada, Iowa and Mississippi.

Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West remembers meeting with Goldstein as efforts to bring gaming to Natchez got under way.

&uot;The city looks forward to meeting with the Isle of Capri,&uot; West said. &uot;I understand they’re a first-class operation, and Natchez deserves a first-class operation.&uot;

West said interest in Natchez will probably increase because of the planned downtown convention center.

And he said he hopes some of that interest will be not only from gaming and tourism, but also from industry.

&uot;Gaming is fine. Tourism is fine,&uot; he said. &uot;But we also need some industry with good, quality jobs. That’s what we’re working on.&uot;

Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said the city is pleased to see Isle of Capri come to Natchez because the company has a strong reputation in the industry.

Goldstein said Isle of Capri’s acquisition would make it one of the 10 largest public gaming companies in the&160;United States.

&uot;We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Lady Luck and to have the opportunity to offer our shareholders the benefits of this natural combination,&uot; Goldstein said. &uot;This acquisition takes Isle of Capri to the next level.&uot;

Larry Gregory, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said the commission will meet with Isle of Capri officials before the end of the year to review the merger plans.

Isle of Capri Chief Financial Officer Rex Yeisley said Lady Luck employees could become Isle of Capri employees under the deal, but he did not know whether the Natchez casino would take on the Isle of Capri name.