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Best of Rudi Schiffer

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Tunica casino GMs talk about what they forsee for 2003

9 January 2003

TUNICA — The rocky, pot-holed road of 2002, ran through Tunica like it did for the rest of the country but like elsewhere, it was not all uphill and some stretches were smooth, but still the road is one to navigate with caution and the early outlook for the market in 2003, ranges from flat to slightly improved.

Even though it was a very busy time of the year, we received responses from every casino general manager in Tunica who voiced opinions and predictions for this outlook 2003 roundup and we thank them for their participation.

In general, while no great leap forward in revenue was foreseen, it was the area of amenities that will come online this year that provides some positive light at the end of the tunnel.

Gold Strike Casino Resort's general manager was the first to respond to our request for a quote and he came right to the point.

DAVID SCHUGAR, GOLD STRIKE GM, "We remain optimistic and anticipate this growth year to be followed by another."

DOMENIC MEZZETTA, FITZGERALDS CASINO, HOTEL, "The year 2002, has been the first full year for Barden Mississippi Gaming, doing business as Fitzgeralds Casino, Hotel Tunica. It has been a great first year and has met the expectations of the new owner.

"We look forward to another great year in 2003. With the first phase of the new airport coming online this summer, we should see increases in the charter business coming to Tunica. While competition is strong here, it does create a good value for our guests and this keeps repeat business coming back. Let the good times roll!"

JON LUCAS, PARK PLACE ENTERTAINMENT TUNICA GROUP (Grand Casino Tunica, Sheraton Casino & Hotel and Bally's Casino Tunica), "We expect the market to be flat in 2003, and while it will be very competitive, our customers will benefit from that, making this a great destination for them in terms of value and enjoyment.

"The new amenities that will be ready in 2003, will also help us all and we shall see more of the same down the road as infrastructure development plays an important role for this market. The challenge is to grow the outer market, and continue to deliver the best service and product to our guests ... our associates did a great job last year and we expect the same in 2003."

BOB MCQUEEN, HORSESHOE CASINO & HOTEL, "As the Tunica area grows as a resort destination, we have to market our amenities in order to grab business since we all have slot machines and gaming tables. I think that to see double-digit growth in the area again, we'll have to develop more amenities like hotel rooms."

JOHN OSBORNE, HOLLYWOOD CASINO TUNICA, "The year 2002, was a pleasant surprise. At this time last year, the leading forecasters and economists were predicting a deep recession following the Sept. 11 (2001) attacks. While the Tunica gaming market did not see any growth last year, it did not experience the steep declines that many had feared or other markets, like Las Vegas, had experienced. This, we believe, was due to the effective marketing communications, great Southern service and the tremendous value that the market offers; great food, comfortable rooms and exciting entertainment at great prices.

"Overall, the average guest spent slightly less this past year, but with more visitors, we ended up the year about even with 2001. For 2003, we are optimistic that our industry will be stable with some modest growth. We are thankful to our guests and our employees for the relative success of 2002, and look forward to serving them this year."

JOHN PHILLIPP, SAM'S TOWN TUNICA, "As we look forward to an exciting year, I'd first like to say how pleased my family and I are to be returning to the Tunica area. It is with great anticipation that we look forward to the many opportunities that we will encounter during the coming year.

The year 2003, looks promising as we will continue to work together with our fellow casino properties, the Tunica Convention and Visitor's Bureau and Tunica County to further the promotion of this area.

Through the efforts of over 1,400 great employees and the strong corporate commitment of Boyd Gaming, Sam's Town will continue to be a top employer and corporate citizen in this region. With our recently-opened East Tower, giving us almost 1,100 hotel rooms and suites, we are now in a position to further support the growth of convention and motor coach business, golf packages and special event activities that will further stimulate the growth of this exciting destination."

PETE BONNER, HARRAH'S TUNICA HOTEL& CASINO, "We are looking forward to another great year in 2003. With the market being flat, the competition will continue to be stiff, but we are confident in our strategy and our focus. Guests will continue to enjoy the benefits and rewards that go with our Total Rewards program. In fact, we have some exciting enhancements to the Total Rewards program, which we'll be announcing soon.

"Having received 21 'Best Of' awards from Strictly Slots magazine this past year, we will continue to strive to do our best to deliver excellent customer service in 2003.

"Finally, we'd like to thank our guests – their loyalty has resulted in Harrah's having one of its best years ever. Thank you!"

And, finally, from the man whose job requires him to be optimistic all the time, we learn what the amenities and their time tables are that will have an important bearing on this market this year and for years to come.

WEBSTER FRANKLIN, TUNICA CONVENTION & VISITOR'S BUREAU, "The evolution of Tunica as a total destination area will continue in 2003, with the opening of several new projects. The expanded Tunica Airport, the Tunica RiverPark and the Tunica National Golf and Tennis Complex will all open in the first, second and third quarters, respectively. These major projects will compliment our world-class gaming product by making this area not only more attractive to visit, but will make it easier for guests to arrive and extend their stay in Tunica. Look for these developments and many others to make the year 2003, Tunica's most successful."

There you have it, the summation of executive hopes for this year. What will unfold remains to be seen as world geopolitical stability can change dramatically at any time.

War clouds loom, the economy is challenged, but this market is now in its 11th year and is moving in the right direction after its own years of change and turnover.

It provided its stability this past year when it stood up to the test of Sept. 11 and became a destination for many new customers who learned what we all know and is still a secret in many potentially-strong feeder markets ... Tunica casinos do offer the best value, the best comps, the best prices and while it never will be a Las Vegas in terms of amenities, it is growing this all-important area and more exciting developments will follow.

You said it right, DOM, "Let the good times roll." I say it differently, as always ... LAISSEZ LE BON TEMPS ROULER!

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