City should hold out for best on gaming

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 3, 2003

It was a long and winding road that eventually brought gaming to Natchez &045; although it didn’t quite start out that way.

The bill the Legislature passed to authorize gaming was one some lawmakers wanted to pass just for &uot;ol’ Bob M.&uot; Dearing, the state senator from Adams County. It was meant to boost tourism.

Eventually that bill led to casinos in several other parts of the state &045; and the first one was not even built in Natchez.

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Ten years later, Natchez has only one riverboat casino, while places like the gulf coast and Tunica just exploded with gaming facilities.

Gaming is still, of course, not without its opponents. Ministers and judges, among others, see the negative effects it has brought to the community.

But the casino continues to bring jobs and tax revenue to a city whose economy is now struggling.

As city leaders look to develop a new strip of riverfront land just north of Natchez Under-the-Hill, some are hoping another riverboat casino will make its way to Natchez. They have said, however, that they want to take a close look at any proposed development.

Is a second casino a long shot? Maybe. Some gaming experts &045; including Isle of Capri owner Bernie Goldstein &045; have long said Natchez can only support one casino. The city may have &045; pardon the pun &045; missed the boat early on as gaming became popular in other communities. Isle of Capri still could expand its operation here, although Goldstein said he has been scared off by the city’s talk of getting a new casino. That may be just talk &045; after all, any new casino would be competition for Isle of Capri.

Natchez didn’t get the best deal when it first entered the gaming market and Lady Luck came to town. This time around, whether it’s an Isle of Capri expansion or a new casino or both, we are assured that the city wants to take its time to make the best of the situation.