Horizon’s parent company taps out new game plan|No tips from executives on what strategy will mean for Vicksburg casino

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tropicana Entertainment — which owns Horizon Casino in Vicksburg and 10 others nationwide — has unveiled a new business plan to make its holdings more profitable as the company emerges from bankruptcy filings earlier this year.

While Tropicana CEO Scott C. Butera said in a statement the company plans to cut expenditures and beef up things such as slot products, property configurations and restaurants, he provided no location specifics.

“Given the uncertain state of capital markets, our plan is focused on improvements that can be internally generated without reliance on outside funds,” Butera said.

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Bob Little, Horizon general manager, said Monday he had not yet received any information about the Tropicana business plan, let alone any information specific to Horizon. Hud Englehart, spokesman for Tropicana, said he could not yet speak about any plans specifically in place for operations in Vicksburg. However, he did say he did not believe buyers were being sought for the casino.

Tropicana had agreed to sell Horizon to Nevada Gold & Casinos Inc. in November 2007 for roughly $35 million. However, Nevada Gold later backed out of the deal. Tropicana filed Chapter 11 in May for all its properties but two, both located in Atlantic City, which it was attempting to sell at the time of the filing — but is now in the process of trying to regain control of.   

The lone piece of information specific to Vicksburg in the Tropicana business plan is an estimate of gaming revenue growth in the market. According to the 14-page summary released to the media, the Vicksburg market is expected to grow by 5 percent in 2009, and by 2 percent in the four years following. Revenues have shrunk by about 2.5 percent thus far in the calendar year and by 4.3 percent in 2007, according to the report. However, Ameristar Casino’s unveiling of a $100 million expansion and the opening of Riverwalk as the city’s fifth casino this year has led many in the gaming industry to speculate market expansion. 

“We will be emerging into one of the most difficult markets for gaming and hospitality services ever experienced by the industry,” Butera said. “The key for us will be to stabilize our revenue base and grow profits through aggressive cost management; strategic investments in products, services and facilities; targeted customer development and retention programs; and a more motivated, self-driven staff.”

Horizon’s gaming floor was closed for four days last week after a power surge to the business destroyed a component of the surveillance system. Originally opened as Harrah’s Casino in 1993, it was sold in 2003 for $28.6 million, at which point it became Horizon.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com.