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Isle of Capri Casino closes Sunday

Isle of Capri employee Charles West uses a forklift to carry old slot machines out the company’s storage facility on Canal Street so that the machines can be destroyed. (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

Isle of Capri employee Charles West uses a forklift to carry old slot machines out the company’s storage facility on Canal Street so that the machines can be destroyed. (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — After more than two decades of gaming at Natchez Under-the-Hill, the Isle of Capri Casino will close its doors at noon Sunday.

Isle of Capri first announced the closure of the casino and sale of its hotel in August. Isle of Capri spokeswoman Jill Alexander confirmed on Thursday the Sunday closing date.

The hotel’s approximately $11.5 million sale to Magnolia Bluffs Casino’s parent company Casino Holding Investment Partners will be completed Monday, Magnolia Bluffs Casino President Kevin Preston said.

The hotel will close for two or three days to switch over its computer system, change out vending machines and other work, Preston said, before reopening next week.

“We’ll be reopening just as quickly as we can,” he said.

Isle of Capri employee Brandon Simmons moves old slot machine into a row before they were destroyed. Simmons, who will be out of a job on Sunday when the casino closes, doesn’t know what he will do after. “I’m planning on moving,” he said. “It’s scary, but I got to do something.” (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

Isle of Capri employee Brandon Simmons moves old slot machine into a row before they were destroyed. Simmons, who will be out of a job on Sunday when the casino closes, doesn’t know what he will do after. “I’m planning on moving,” he said. “It’s scary, but I got to do something.” (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

The planned rebranding and renovation of the hotel will start almost immediately, Preston said, with the lobby and the painting of the entire exterior of the hotel. That work should be completed within 30 days, Preston said.

The company will then begin remodeling the hotel rooms, working one floor at a time so rooms will remain open throughout the process. The remodeling work should be completed in approximately four months, Preston said.

The future of the Isle of Capri Casino facility — a barge with a riverboat replica built on it — is uncertain at this point, Alexander said.

“We’re still working through that process, so I don’t have any information on that now,” she said.

The Isle of Capri is currently in the process of evaluating what equipment in the Natchez casino can be repurposed for the company’s other properties, Alexander said. Isle of Capri operates 14 other casinos across the country.

“It’s going to take a period of time to unwind the business,” she said.

Surveillance and security will still be active at the property after the casino closes, Alexander said.

Alexander said she had no information to offer on whether the Isle’s barge will be moved from Natchez.

Mayor Butch Brown said he is under the impression that the facility will be moved out of Natchez but said he not heard what would happen to it.

The Isle of Capri has owned the Natchez property, a dockside casino with 520 slot machines and six table games, since 2000. Prior to the Isle’s ownership, the casino operation was owned by Lady Luck Casino Corporation, which opened in 1993.

The casino generated $23 million in revenue in fiscal year 2015, but a company snapshot published in June noted that since Magnolia Bluffs Casino opened in December 2012 the Isle of Capri’s gaming revenues in Natchez have declined — even as overall company revenues increased 5 percent in 2015.

The Isle of Capri leases approximately 24 acres of land in related to its Natchez gaming operations, paying an annual rent of approximately $1.1 million. The company also leases approximately 7.5 acres for parking and owns six additional acres and the property in which its hotel is located.