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Gaming leaders mull Miss. moves
Casino company execs meet next week to discuss Katrina damage, whether or not to rebuild business.
September 6, 2005: 12:33 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - In another sign of the gaming industry's anxiety about its future in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, CEOs of the top casino companies are expected to discuss the matter next week during the industry's annual G2E trade show in Las Vegas.

At least one state official -- Larry Gregory, head of Mississippi Gaming Commission -- fears that the casinos may not return to the state unless the current gaming laws are changed to allow companies to operate land-based casinos instead of the "floating casinos" decimated by Katrina.

If companies don't rebuild their businesses, Gregory fears the state could risk losing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in gaming revenue and taxes.

The American Gaming Association's (AGA) board of directors, which includes MGM Mirage (Research) CEO Terry Lannian, Harrah's Entertainment (Research) CEO Gary Loveman, Pinnacle Entertainment chief Daniel Lee and Wynn Resorts CEO Stephen Wynn, will meet Monday, according to AGA's president and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf.

The AGA is a trade group representing the commercial casino entertainment industry.

"Obviously the primary focus will be on what happens to all the people employed by the casino industry, hotels and other support services in the area and how to take care of them," Fahrenkopf told CNN/Money Tuesday.

Another focal area of debate, he expects, will center around the Mississippi's gaming regulations and whether or not companies are willing to return and rebuild their business unless the law is amended to allow inland casinos.

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour -- who, like Fahrenkopf, is a former national Republican Party chairman -- addressed the issue Sunday in an interview with on NBC's "Meet the Press."

When asked if Mississippi will rebuild casinos along the Gulf on exactly the same locations as before the hurricane struck, Barbour responded that the legislature is "going to have to look at whether or not we want to allow the casinos to be built on the land like the hotels that they're attached to."

"Nobody is going to talk about bringing [the casinos] inland or anything," Barbour told NBC. "But the question is, should the bottoms, should the floors actually sit on land or pilings instead of out in the water. And because every one, or virtually every one of the casino barges, the casino floors were blown inland and did a lot of damage, the legislature, I think, will do that. That's going to be my recommendation."

Said Fahrenkopf, "It appears that Barbour will support change in legislation to allow land-based casinos."  Top of page

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