Isle of Capri opens 227-room resort in Tunica

Nov 22, 2000 10:00 AM

The Isle of Capri has opened an eight-story, 227-room hotel at its casino in Tunica along with two entertainment theaters. The Isle reopened the original Harrah’s Casino at Casino Strip over a year ago and immediately began to upgrade the property with the construction of the hotel and the two theaters.

One of the theaters is cabaret style with seating for 500 while the other theater will hold 1, 280 and specialize in Las Vegas- and Branson-type shows.

When opened by Harrah’s in March 1993, the 30,000-square-foot casino was the first to open close to the main market of Memphis. Soon thereafter, all of Tunica’s 10 casino properties located in the Robinsonville area, about 12 miles closer to Memphis.

The original Tunica County casino, Mhoon Landing ”” once home to four dockside casinos ”” shortly became deserted with only parking lots and a few sign supports to indicate that anything other than cotton had ever occupied the land.

Harrah’s Tries to Stay Alive

A little over a year has passed since Harrah’s New Orleans first opened the doors to its 100,000-square-foot casino. Since day one, it’s been a battle for financial survival.

The problem isn’t so much gaming revenues, about $20 million/month, but a double-edge sword of very high taxes and the lack of amenities such as a hotel and restaurants.

Many casinos generate about one-third of their total revenues from non-gaming sources, including hotel rooms, food, retail shops and shows and other entertainment.

Harrah’s New Orleans has very little non-gaming revenue to add to its total.

Relief from the state of Louisiana may be on the way. Governor Mike Foster has indicated he might accept a reduction in the state tax from $100 million/year to $60-70 million.

But just because Foster might give the nod to such a plan, there is no guarantee that the legislature will go along. And the hotel/motel people and the restaurant association seem to be in no mood to support a move to let Harrah’s build a 700-800 room hotel and open several restaurants.

In the meantime, Harrah’s is contemplating a "friendly" bankruptcy to reorganize its finances. Such a bankruptcy would eliminate the equity held by current stockholders. As a result, the American Stock Exchange has "de-listed" the parent company, Jazz Casino Company LLC.

Even if the legislature goes along with the tax reduction plan, and gaming revenues continue their upward trend, the casino at the foot of Canal Street still needs a way to generate non-gaming revenues to succeed.

Alpha’s Ship Comes In

Alpha Hospitality Corporation has accepted delivery of a new day cruise gaming Vessel. The ship will dock at the Haulover Park Marina just north of Bal Harbour, Fla.

The ship will feature a 7,000-square-foot casino with 165 slots and 20 gaming tables on the first two decks. The third deck will feature dining and entertainment.

The Ella Star Casino will sail at noon and 7:30 p.m. daily. The vessel’s location gives it one of the fastest routes to the three-mile limit”¦only 20 minutes. The inaugural cruise is set for November 24.