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Best of Rudi Schiffer

Gaming Guru

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Heard It On The River

13 September 2005

While a lot of us are sitting here feeling good about our support and contributions to the thousands of unfortunate victims (not refugees) of Killer Katrina, there is more to be done, much more. And for those of you who have sat on your wallets, your assistance is still needed. How could you not open up and help out?For those in the casino industry, we share a kindred spirit with the thousands put out of work, out of their homes, out of whatever life they had. The casinos will be rebuilt, on land this time, because to put them back on barges would be a moral failure on the part of the powers to be. And for those dedicated if misguided defenders of our morals that want to extract a price for this future safeguard, woe unto you. Who was it that demanded casinos be on water?

Tunica's casinos have responded to the plight of their colleagues and friends on the Gulf Coast and more aid is on the way. This is a highly competitive business but when the industry responded to help the stricken, those barriers were dropped instantly. And from today's ruins, new and better and safer casino resorts will spring up from New Orleans to Biloxi.

The content of this column has always been one of "bon temps," or let the good times roll, but this week we are not in the spirit of frivolity as Katrina continues as a long, lasting hangover. But in the midst of all this gloom and doom, there is light shining down on the Gulf Coast and on New Orleans with the massive Red Cross, government, organizational, corporate and personal assistance that has raised billions for the recovery. Just as we tend to take care of own first, the gaming industry is no different and to its credit it has stepped up with timely and significant assistance for our stricken brethren on the coast.

We are not privy to all the assistance extended so forgive this writer if I miss some of the aid provided, but here is what I know now and summarized so we all know that this industry is more than just EBITDA.

The AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION set up a Gaming Industry Relief Fund to help thousands of casino workers who have lost their jobs and homes. HARRAH'S ENTERTAINMENT jumped right in and donated $1 million to the fund.

BEAU RIVAGE'S 3,400 employees will continue to be paid and receive full benefits through December and CHAIRMAN TERRY LANNI said MGM MIRAGE'S goal was to rehire all employees once the Beau is operating. The company is committed to rebuild and is utilizing employees in the recovery and reconstruction. It opened the Beau Rivage Recovery Center where it distributes paychecks to employees. It was able to open a dining hall to serve meals and a job center to match available workers with open positions at sister properties. The company also announced a $1 million seed donation to its employee-funded Voice Foundation and will match without limit, dollar-for-dollar every employee donation made by its 70,000 workforce with the funds devoted to Beau Rivage employees and their families. Its Call Center telephone number is 866-368-7399.

HARRAH'S, which lost its two Grand Casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport and suffered lesser damage at its casino in New Orleans, has opened an employee assistance center at the company's Mid-South regional headquarters in Gulfport. It will allow some 6,000 affected employees to get medical treatment, collect paychecks for up to 90 days, and sign up for benefits and job openings at other Harrah's properties. In addition, Harrah's has established an Employee Recovery Fund to assist employees affected by the hurricane. The HARRAH'S FOUNDATION, a non-profit charitable corporation funded by company has provided a relief fund with $1 million in initial financing. The Harrah's employee number is 877-7422-7466.

The ISLE OF CAPRI, with 1,150 casino employees in Biloxi, established a $500,000 fund to help employees and the company's Iowa employees packed a caravan with supplies. President Jack Gallaway said hourly team members will be paid for a minimum of 90 days and salaried team members for a minimum of nine months. The employee information number for the Isle is 800-843-4753.

PENN NATIONAL, which owns CASINO MAGIC-Bay St, Louis and BOOMTOWN in Biloxi, moved immediately to establish a toll-free employee assistance Hotline (1-800-598-0756) for its displaced employees.

Other employee assistance numbers for casinos along the hurricane-ravaged coast include: Treasure Bay, 228-896-5879 and Hard Rock, 888-886-0920.

Locally, FITZGERALDS donated food and supplies to local Tunica shelters and held a blood drive. RESORTS and BALLY'S also donated supplies, including much-needed bottled water. Shelters were also set up by Grand at its Convention Center and Tunica opened its Recreation Center to house evacuees, and staged fund-raising to raise cash and supplies. BOYD CORPORATION'S Sam's Town held a special benefit concert in Tunica featuring country music star BUDDY JEWELL and kicked it off with a $15,000 donation. In addition to setting up a relief center at Sam's Town it also provided rooms. The American Red Cross said all of the Tunica-area casinos donated something to the shelter. The TUNICA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU also assisted by supporting a public drive to load a 53-foot trailer with emergency supplies and the CASINO FACTORY SHOPPES partnered with the Red Cross to collect money for the victims.

In addition, JACKPOT, which also publishes a Gulf Coast edition and Mississippi Gaming News from Gulfport, was affected by the hurricane but Publisher Michael Sunderman remains in Gulfport with Editor Lori Beth Susman to re-establish those papers for the industry as soon as feasible.

If we missed out on other news related to casinos and Katrina, we apologize but this what we had in hand as we went to press. If your gaming organization assisted in the recovery, send us the news and we will be happy to take note of that effort in our next issue.

And to all of you who stepped up in any way, large or small, God Bless.

Rudi Schiffer

Rudi Schiffer is a long time columnist and contributing writer for Jackpot Magazine, the South’s leading gaming publication, and for casinocitytimes.com, the world’s leading casino industry internet news distributor. He is also owner and co-host of the 20-year-old Goodtimes Radio Show, now simulcast on Fridays from 3-6 PM Central Time from Country Classic 1180 AM, Memphis networked with KMIS 1050 AM, and 103.9 KGLU FM from Kennet, MO covering parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. His radio show is also archived at audiovegas.com. A Boston University Journalism graduate, he resides in Memphis, TN. Known as the "Voice of Tunica" for his support the gaming jurisdiction for two decades, he was also recently named to Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine’s 3rd annual “The Power Players, Who’s Who” of Memphis.He is also a contributing writer for Southern Gaming & Entertainment and Mississippi Gaming.

Rudi Schiffer Websites:

www.AudioVegas.com
Rudi Schiffer
Rudi Schiffer is a long time columnist and contributing writer for Jackpot Magazine, the South’s leading gaming publication, and for casinocitytimes.com, the world’s leading casino industry internet news distributor. He is also owner and co-host of the 20-year-old Goodtimes Radio Show, now simulcast on Fridays from 3-6 PM Central Time from Country Classic 1180 AM, Memphis networked with KMIS 1050 AM, and 103.9 KGLU FM from Kennet, MO covering parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. His radio show is also archived at audiovegas.com. A Boston University Journalism graduate, he resides in Memphis, TN. Known as the "Voice of Tunica" for his support the gaming jurisdiction for two decades, he was also recently named to Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine’s 3rd annual “The Power Players, Who’s Who” of Memphis.He is also a contributing writer for Southern Gaming & Entertainment and Mississippi Gaming.

Rudi Schiffer Websites:

www.AudioVegas.com