Cato finds boat for new casino

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Florida developer Charles Cato said Wednesday his Emerald Star Casino company has bought from Harrah’s a 100,000-square-foot boat that will serve as his planned Natchez casino.

&uot;We are coming to Natchez,&uot; Cato said.

Cato, who is in town today, said he plans to close on his purchase of The Briars bed-and-breakfast inn by the end of the month.

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Cato said he also has plans to build a 120-room hotel on land he owns in front of the Ramada Hilltop. &uot;We’ve got two flagship (hotel companies) we’re negotiating with now&uot; to operate the hotel, Cato said.

Cato had originally planned to buy and renovate the 162-rooom Ramada, but talks fell through.

Due to Hurricane Katrina, Cato’s appearance on the Mississippi Gaming Commission agenda has been pushed back from this month to October.

If the commission grants Emerald Star a casino license then, the casino should be open six to eight months from then, he said.

The casino would be placed just south of the Mississippi River bridge.

Cato’s casino would have 920 slot machines and 26 table games.

The Gaming Commission approved the site and development plan for Cato’s casino complex, an estimated investment of more than $50 million, in February 2004.

Emerald Star must also secure environmental permits as well as approval from such agencies as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers &045; approval Cato said he’s applied for and hopes to receive shortly.

Cato is also required to submit a site plan to the city’s Planning Commission for its approval.

In 2003, Cato had talked with city officials about the possibility of locating a casino at the city-owned Roth Hill property and using three other on-the-hill properties for, among other things, a convention center hotel.