Critics don’t see need for another boat

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2003


&045; One casino, two casinos, three casinos, four &045; for many Natchez leaders the amount of casinos in Natchez is not where the problem lies but the effects of the casinos and gambling on the city and people of Natchez.

Everyone has their own reasons why they think a second casino in Natchez may not be such a good idea.

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Some, like Ron Miller, director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, think the economic pie for the casinos will not grow, so a second casino will just feed off of the revenue of another.

Others agreed. Without an interstate running through Natchez or any metropolitan area nearby, it seems unlikely Natchez will turn into a gaming town, Miller and others said. And two casinos would definitely not be enough to do so, there would need to be more.

As far as expectations for increased economic development from a second casino, Dale Little, president of the Adams-Union Baptist Association, is not convinced.

&uot;All the jobs that a casino brings also brings the heartache to the people Šthat put their money on the table,&uot; Little said.

You are &uot;looking at all kinds of economic problems in our area and you can’t gamble yourself rich.&uot;

&uot;Another boat is not going to make it more successful. We have no more money, we have no more people.&uot;

Miller said the best-case scenario is that a new casino will bring about development on the river and the bluff and will be positive for Natchez.

Miller said he is not worried gaming will take over as the city’s main attraction. Although, he said the hope would be more casinos would mean more out of town dollars.

Most of Miller’s concerns center around the historic preservation of the city and making sure a new business follows the guidelines to not disturb any historic property.

&uot;Once you lose a historic resource it’s lost forever, so we need to be very careful,&uot; Miller said. &uot;I am concerned about development on the edge of historic residential area, and its impact on that area.&uot;

A second concern is that land will be set aside for development but never be used for such. And if it is, is gaming the best way to use certain spaces, like the pecan factory? Miller is not convinced it is.

Miller said he is &uot;not as worried about its historic value than its potential development value.&uot;

Isle of Capri Casino officials, while welcoming competition, believe the market simply can’t support another gaming boat.

&uot;The Isle of Capri operates gaming properties in seven competitive markets across the nation,&uot; said Jose Oakley, new general manager in Natchez. &uot;While Isle of Capri Casino-Natchez welcomes competition in a healthy economy, studies indicate that the market will not support more than one casino. Isle of Capri is proud to be one of the largest employers in the Miss-Lou area, and we will continue to be an excellent corporate citizen for many years to come.&uot;

But others have other concerns about the addiction to gambling itself and what is does and has done to families.

The Rev. Alfred Camp of St. Mary Basilica said gambling is OK in moderation, the problem is in the addiction.

It &uot;destroys families (and) can be very sad for those people that have that addiction,&uot; Camp said.

At Catholic Charities, people do come in for assistance with bills because they have gambled away their money for their utilities, rent or groceries.

&uot;Many times when we interview (people asking for emergency assistance), although they are reluctant to admit it, they have lost money at the boat,&uot; Martha Mitternight, director of Catholic Charities Natchez, said. &uot;We try to educate them that the boats are there to make money and they are not going to automatically win.&uot;

Mitternight said the amount of people coming to them for help seems to have remained steady during the years the casino has been in Natchez and only foresees more problems with an additional riverboat casino.

&uot;Of course, it concerns us that there will be another outlet for persons that already have difficulty making ends meet,&uot; Mitternight said. &uot;They will have another outlet, in an attempt to make life better for themselves, (but) lose money.

&uot;It’s another temptation to spend money unwisely,&uot; she said, noting the competition between two boats will just bring more promotions to lure individuals to go to the casinos.

Isle of Capri casino