DETROIT -- The
Hurricane Katrina disaster in Mississippi could by itself probably
qualify as the worst natural disaster in American history, Stephen
Richer told delegates at the National Tour Association convention
The headquarters of
the Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, of which Richer is
executive director, was blown away. Out of 150,000 buildings [in
the CVBs area], 50,000 are gone, 85,000 are damaged, Richer
Richer is optimistic
now, however, based primarily on two developments. One is a
commission organized by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to
create a full-range plan for the recovery of the Gulf Coast. And
helping to expedite that project is a law passed by the Mississippi
legislature Oct. 17, making it legal to have casinos on land.
(Previously, casinos were required to have at least a portion of
the property based in the water.)
The Governors Commission on
Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal plans to release a report Dec. 9
on the state of the recovery in Mississippi with recommendations on
how to proceed with further recovery efforts.
My expectation is a
very aggressive goal set in terms of the destination, Richer said.
And there is an extremely high amount of public and private
investment coming in largely because of the change in the (casino)
law, which now allows casinos to be built within 800 feet of the
water, instead of being required to be in the water.
This gives a message
to Wall Street and to the insurance industry that we can rebuild
something safer, Richer said. It will be the catalyst that will
change the investment climate.
The majority of casino
barges were dramatically damaged, Richer said, or moved from their
Three casinos that
suffered limited damage are slated to open around the New Year. The
Palace and the Isle of Capri casino barges were both destroyed.
However, they are both moving their casinos into their meetings
spaces, courtesy of the new law. Meanwhile, the Imperial Palace
will reopen with its casino on the barge where it was.
It will be a year or
two before everybody is back, Richer said.
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].