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Mississippi Town Reflects on Gaming's Pros, Cons

17 March 2003

NATCHEZ, Mississippi – As reported by the Associated Press: " Casino gambling in one of Mississippi's oldest river cities has been greeted with praise and scorn -- depending on whom you ask.

"Often bitter debate divided Natchez during the drive to adopt riverboat gaming in mid-1990. In November of that year, the required majority of voters approved it and opened the way for city officials to negotiate with companies interested in placing a casino along the Natchez waterfront.

"…`The jobs it's created in Natchez are important, but the jobs across the state, more than 40,000 directly and indirectly, by the casinos has meant a lot to the economy,' said state Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, who backed the legislation that emerged from the Legislature in 1990.

"…Not everyone is convinced of the need for a gaming industry.

"The Rev. Dale Little, director of missions for the Adams-Union Baptist Association, said he has seen an increase in the number of compulsive gamblers that come to churches for help.

"…The Isle of Capri itself trains employees to spot and assist problem gamblers, said Manager Wendy Grandin.

"…Troyce Guice, former owner of the Natchez Landing restaurant, said while the casino wasn't a factor in the recent closing of his restaurant, it did have its effects.

"`The bottom line is that money they're spending at the casino is money they're not spending at other businesses,' Guice said.

"…The casino has also provided about $10.5 million in gaming taxes to local governments since it opened, with 70 percent going to the city and 30 percent to the county.

"The casino attracts mostly local patrons -- 90 percent of its patrons are from a 50-mile radius -- but casino gaming and entertainment are just two other attractions to market to tourists once they get here, said Tourism Director Walter Tipton…"

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