For employees, new casino was a boon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 2, 2003

For Sue McGuire, the opening of the then-Lady Luck Casino was a chance to move back home from Dallas.

For Robert McNeely, it was a chance to stop commuting to his job at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola.

And both employees, it was a chance to hold down a steady job in a sometimes unsteady economy.

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In all, the boat &045; now owned and operated by Isle of Capri &045; employs 303 people locally and has paid out almost $57 million in salaries and wages since it opened.

About 70 of current employees have worked there since the boat opened in February 1993, said

Manager Wendy Grandin. The casino’s 10th anniversary, which it is celebrating with several giveaways and other promotions, was Friday.

Without the casino, &uot;I would have found another job &045; it just wouldn’t be here,&uot; said McNeely, who started out as a security officer with the casino when it opened. Across the table, McGuire agreed.

And working at a business that invests in employee training, promotes from within and is a fun working environment is also a plus, they said. &uot;When I walk into the casino, it’s like coming home,&uot; McGuire said.

The casino has also provided more than $10.46 million in gaming taxes to local governments since it opened, with 70 percent going to the city and 30 percent to the county,

The city’s portion makes up 4.53 percent of the city’s total budget and is split between the general fund and a fund that pays for capital improvements such as roads and convention center debt, said City Clerk Donnie Holloway.

The casino attracts mostly local patrons &045; 90 percent of its patrons are from a 50-mile radius &045; but casino gaming and entertainment are just two other attractions to market to tourists once they get here, said Tourism Director Walter Tipton.

&uot;On holidays, you go downtown and the stores are closed, but the casino is open 24 hours a day, every day,&uot; Tipton said.

Although figures were not available from the Convention and Visitors Bureau as of press time, the Isle of Capri also participates in cooperative advertising.

It is also one more venue for the CVB to package with other attractions like golf, house tours, conventions and bed and breakfasts, Tipton said.

In addition, the Isle of Capri &045; Natchez strives to be a good corporate citizens, Grandin said. It has made almost $526,000 in charitable contributions since it opened, according to the company’s figures.

&uot;We’re a sponsor for the (Great Mississippi River) Balloon Race and the Fourth of July fireworks,&uot; Grandin said. In addition to contributing to lighting along Silver Street, she added, &uot;we’re very active supporters of the United Way.&uot;

The company estimates that the closing of International Paper and Johns Manville will decrease the Natchez casino’s revenues by 6 to 8 percent in the coming year.

&uot;But we’re going to be here&uot; for years to come, Grandin said.