City courts casino developers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Call it name dropping &045; without the names.

Although Tourism Director Walter Tipton could not divulge their names, he did mention several casino industry developers the city has contacted in recent weeks in the hope of attracting a development to the Natchez riverfront.

The city has talked to a Biloxi architect who has done work with officials of Horseshoe Casinos and the Beau Rivage. Some involved in the creation of a hotel/casino complex in Tunica have also been contacted.

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&uot;A Jackson contractor who is building an addition to the Biloxi Isle of Capri also knew some people&uot; the city could contact about the possibility of a development at the Roth Hill riverfront site, Tipton said. Tipton made his comments during the Wednesday meeting of the Convention Promotion Commission.

Tipton and other city officials traveled to the Southern Gaming Summit last week to tout the site to developers. Next Tuesday evening, they will host developers at a reception and will take them on tours of the site.

They will also make a presentation about Roth Hill and adjacent properties at a Mississippi Gaming Commission meeting to be held Wednesday at the Natchez Convention Center.

&uot;There’ll be a lot of casino attorneys there,&uot; Tipton said.

City and economic development officials are marketing 5.3 acres of riverfront property at the foot of Roth Hill, plus the 1.7-acre convention center parking lot site and the old Natchez Pecan Factory building, to prospective developers.

The hope is that one day the entire riverfront &045; including a rebuilt Water Street running along the river between Silver Street and Roth Hill Road &045; will be taken up with park space and housing, and with businesses that would bring jobs and tax revenue into the city.

City officials have said they have received several inquiries about the site.

However, Tipton pointed out that the city’s goal is not to market to the casino industry alone. &uot;We don’t want people to feel we’re just targeting that,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re interested in development for retail, a casino or a hotel. We would prefer that someone come in and develop all the properties.&uot;

In other business, Tipton told the commission that the Convention and Visitors Bureau is $15,441 in the red.

Yet Tipton said that is mostly due to the fact that the CVB has done more advertising than it had done by the same time last year &045; 70 percent of its advertising for the fiscal year, to be exact.

That should change when the bureau is reimbursed for grants it is using to fund such programs, Tipton said.

However, Tipton also said that hotel and bed and breakfast tax receipts were down 15 percent for March from the same month last year. Restaurant taxes are up about 4 percent for the same period.