No to Gulf Coast

May 16, 2001 3:03 AM

Phil Satre, chairman of Harrah’s Entertainment, and Glenn Schaeffer, president of Mandalay Resort Group, were adamant last week about having no plans to expand their casino empires into the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

Satre and Schaeffer were among the keynote speakers Friday at a two-day gathering of gaming industry executives, analysts, vendors and media at the Southern Gaming Summit, held at the Mississippi Convention Center in Biloxi. An estimated 200 industry executives were in attendance to hear the two give their views.

Satre, who recently exercised stock options that netted $3.6 million, said his company needs to consolidate its gains elsewhere. Harrah’s recently announced plans to buy Harvey’s Casino Resorts for $625 million. The purchase gives Harrah’s casinos in South Lake Tahoe, Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Central City, Colo. The purchase also signals Harrah’s desire to stay out of the highly competitive Mississippi gaming market.

"We have a major property nearby in New Orleans," Satre said, speaking of the long-delayed French Quarter gambling hall that is expected to fare better under a reduced tax structure recently approved by the Louisiana Legislature. "And we plan to focus on our existing and newly acquired properties."

Mandalay has also announced plans to expand. The company is developing the second-largest convention facility in Las Vegas. Schaeffer’s reasons for staying clear of the Gulf Coast were similar to Satre’s.

"We want to concentrate our efforts on intensively developing our Las Vegas property," he said.

The coast has already attracted a couple of major Las Vegas casino companies in Park Place and MGM Mirage.