‘Sand, sand everywhere’ as casinos shore up

Published 11:44 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Vicksburg casinos have made it through the week open for business while preparing for the rising river.

It was “sand, sand everywhere” at Riverwalk Casino as “a high-tech sandwall” was built around the casino, marketing director Ginny Tzotzolas said.

About 1,500 linear feet of square-shaped bins — 4-foot-square manufactured barriers lined with heavy fabric and filled with sand — will block access to the buffet, though the casino is confident the barriers will protect the structure already built to withstand a 100-year flood — which is predicted to be topped this year.

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“We’re going to stay open for our customers as long as we can,” Tzotzolas said.

Separately, Riverwalk and Rainbow casinos were building a small levee over a shared transformer to keep water from affecting either property.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission has said closures in Vicksburg due to the approaching flood will be left up to individual casinos. Ordered, phased closings began last week in Tunica. Lighthouse Point and Jubilee casinos in Greenville have announced they will close by today. Casinos in Tunica employ about 10,000 people. Vicksburg’s five casinos employ about 2,150. Greenville’s two employ about 350. The Isle of Capri casino in Natchez was expected to close Sunday.

Ameristar Casino is “well-prepared” to handle a 57.5-foot flood at its concrete foundation at the river bridges, general manager George Stadler said.

An earthen levee topped with sandbags and a cinder block wall was built this week to protect the main casino from rising waters. On Wednesday, the casino had issued a statement saying the flood could close the facility for 10 days to two weeks because the predicted crest would top the casino’s current design. It was placed on a land-based foundation in 2007.

That changed Thursday, Stadler said, as the construction work made the casino safe from water up to 61.5 feet.

At the soon-to-be Grand Station Casino, formerly Horizon, new machines rolled onto freshly installed carpet in preparation for the downtown casino’s official reopening, still set between May 12 and 20.

“We’re high and dry over here,” marketing director Cheryl Good said, adding the barge on the Yazoo Diversion Canal where the facility sits should be stable with any stage.

Horizon was purchased in 2010 by Delta Investments & Development LLC.