Horizon work begins today with eatery

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

At least a modest renovation of Horizon Casino began today as one of its restaurants reopened, according to the first statement by the owners since 42 employees were discharged Tuesday.

The company says the reopening of Josh’s is a prelude to renewed investment, the first improvements to Horizon since Harrah’s sold the downtown casino property in 2003.

It will include new carpets and upgrades including new slot machines and a revamped entrance, according to the news release from Tropicana Entertainment LLC. The job cuts were in multiple departments, including table game personnel. The casino has slot machines operating on one of its three levels.

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Tropicana cited the economic recession’s damaging effects on business and the gaming industry, though did not officially specify layoff totals or what its workforce will be during the planned improvements. The numbers came through information provided to city officials Wednesday.

“Tropicana Entertainment’s Horizon Casino in Vicksburg is positioning property operations to better compete in a business environment affected by the current economic downturn and significantly increased competition for entertainment and leisure activity expenditures,” read part of the statement. “As part of this effort, we found it necessary to discontinue table games and implement a small reduction in force. We took this step with great reluctance and only as a last resort after earlier efforts at cost reduction and increased operating efficiencies proved insufficient to ensure profitability.” The move reportedly leaves the casino with about 100 employees.

Offerings at Josh’s have changed from fine dining, which dated to when Harrah’s owned the property, to more of a casual eating atmosphere, Horizon Casino Vicksburg director of marketing Cheryl Good said Thursday.

“It’ll have sandwiches and freshly made half-pound burgers,” Good said.

Specific gaming offerings such as slots and craps tables weren’t mentioned in the release; however, the company indicated it sought to balance payroll with what was considered popular draws.

“During the recession, we have been trying to realign Horizon’s product offerings with existing demand,” it read. “In so doing, we have worked to preserve key services and amenities and their corresponding employee positions. However, we have had to cease supporting some elements of the business, particularly those that might have caused us to take more drastic actions in the future. As a result, the property offers our Vicksburg customers a smaller and more intimate experience with the same opportunity for fun and excitement that has always been part of Horizon Casino.” 

Horizon is in the sixth year of a 30-year lease-purchase agreement with the City of Vicksburg on its approximately 12 acres of property along Mulberry and Levee streets, including a 2.95-acre portion of City Front secured by former owners at Harrah’s in 1993 to solidify the downtown gaming market. It calls for the casino to pay $562,939.56 by 2033, plus 1.5 percent of net revenues.

Termination fees to kick in if the casino ever closes call for the company to pay $450,000 to the city, a figure  likely to be adjusted higher by the Consumer Price Index.  Some property would revert back to the city, including pavilions, walkways, boardwalks and docking facilities used by customers to get from the hotel to the main boat and parking garages. The hotel, main casino and all personal property in each would remain with the developers.

Tropicana, formerly owned by Columbia Sussex, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. The resulting restructuring plan has split corporate oversight of the company’s gaming properties between Tropicana Casino & Resort on the Las Vegas Strip and those in New Jersey, Nevada, Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com