Casinos report active weekend

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Vicksburg played host over the Labor Day weekend to visitors making one last excursion before the summer vacation period to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park, local museums, and, for some people, to make one last try to strike at rich at one of the area’s four casinos.

And some of the area’s casinos reported an increase in customers during the three-day weekend, and offered promotions to help build traffic.

“The table games are full, and we’re having a slot tournament this weekend,” said Linda Johnson, manager on duty Sunday at DiamondJacks. “There are a whole lot of people here, considering all the other things going on this weekend like football games. We’re seeing a lot of people at the restaurants. We’ve been very busy this weekend.”

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Although area casino revenues have declined over the past few years, the casino industry is a major contributor to the city’s, Warren County’s and the Vicksburg Warren County School District’s revenue stream, providing money for general fund and special projects.

Casinos in Vicksburg pay a 3.2 percent revenue tax to the state that is divided among the city, county and public schools. Broken out, 65 percent goes to the city, 35 percent to the county and 10 percent to public schools. A second revenue tax is a 0.8 percent share of the state’s 8.8 percent revenue tax, paid to Warren County, and is determined based on the population split between the city and county. The revenue taxes are separate from property taxes, which are assessed at the same time as most homes and businesses.

But those numbers were outside the thoughts of the gamblers on the gaming floor or the residents enjoying the promotions and fare at casino restaurants and clubs.

Lori Burke, Ameristar public relations manager, said Ameristar began Labor Day promotions Thursday to attract visitors, starting with Led Zepplin tribute band Vozo, and continued with live music programs Friday and Saturday.

“We also had a promotion Friday and Saturday called ‘Live Life Lux,’” she said. The special promotion offered participants a chance to win trips to Atlantis Resort or the Caribbean, and a Sunday drawing to win a Mercedes Benz automobile.

“And with the holidays, we always see an increase in the number of guests coming to the casino,” she said.

Gaming in Vicksburg began in 1993, when Harrah’s opened a hotel and casino at site of the Portofino hotel with a floating casino built on a barge and made to look like a riverboat that was moored on the Mississippi River adjacent to the property.

Harrah’s operated at the site from 1993 until 2003, when it sold its Vicksburg property to Columbia Sussex. The names on the casino and hotel changed to Horizon until the fall 2010, when Tropicana Entertainment, which was part of Columbia Sussex and operated Horizon, went bankrupt and closed the casino. The property reopened in 2011 as the Grand Station.

The city had five casinos until 2012, when the Grand Station closed amid bankruptcy and the former casino vessel was auctioned for scrap metal in April 2013 and hauled away.

The owners of Portofino have said they plan to build an on-land casino, but have not applied for a gaming permit with the Mississippi Gaming Commission and the hotel is closed for renovations.

Besides Ameristar and Diamond Jacks, Lady Luck and Riverwalk are the city’s other casinos.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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