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MISSISSIPPI -- After today, MGM Mirage will no longer pay wages and benefits to the displaced employees from the company's hurricane-shuttered Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi, Miss.
The 90-day program in which the Las Vegas-based casino operator agreed to pay the resort's 3,100 employees their lost paychecks expired. The workers were among 17,000 casino employees who lost their jobs when Hurricane Katrina ripped the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. The storm destroyed or heavily damaged 13 casinos in the Mississippi communities of Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.
MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said Monday about 1,000 of the former Beau Rivage employees had found work with the company. More than 100 transferred to other MGM Mirage casinos while a small staff will remain employed to oversee the resort's reopening team.
Feldman said more than 700 Beau Rivage workers were placed in jobs with construction companies working to rebuild the damaged casino.
Feldman said MGM Mirage would give the former Beau Rivage workers first preference to be rehired when the casino reopens sometime next year. Beau Rivage, which opened in 1998, had been Mississippi's largest gambling resort with 1,740 hotel rooms and an 80,000-square-foot casino.
The storm surge associated with the hurricane washed seawater from the Gulf of Mexico into Beau Rivage's public space, destroying restaurants, gaming areas, the main hotel lobby, and entertainment venues.
MGM Mirage executives have stated publicly that it would take 12 to 16 months to rebuild the casino. Beau Rivage officials told the Mississippi Gaming Commission last month they hoped to reopen Aug. 29, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
"That would be poetic justice, but that would also be the most optimistic of dates," Feldman said. "In reality, it will take 12 to 16 months to rebuild."
Feldman said the displaced workers still have access to money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government programs.
"We're happy that we were able to place so many with the contractors rebuilding Beau Rivage," Feldman said. "Of course, when we reopen, we would love to have all of our employees back."
MGM Mirage had been the last of the major casino companies still paying their hurricane-displaced employees. Harrah's Entertainment ended payments to its workers at the end of the November. Several smaller gaming companies, such as Pinnacle Entertainment, offered severance packages to its workers at Casino Magic in Biloxi in October.
Many of the smaller privately held Gulf Coast casinos, such as the Copa Casino in Gulfport and the Treasure Bay in Biloxi, didn't have the resources to pay employees after the casinos closed and the workers were laid off without any benefits.
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