Holloway on Isle sale: And now, another exciting chapter begins

Mayor A.J. Holloway says he will always have vivid memories of opening day of the South’s first legal casino, the Isle of Capri, but he’s also excited about the opportunities presented by having the Golden Nugget in Biloxi.

Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., the parent firm of the Biloxi Isle and 14 other casino properties, announced this morning that it has agreed to sell its Biloxi site to Golden Nugget Biloxi, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Landry’s, Inc., for $45 million.

“We’re excited about having the Golden Nugget name in Biloxi,” Holloway said. “This is a huge milestone for Biloxi, the Gulf Coast and the state of Mississippi. You hear people talk about being a Tier 1 destination. Well, the Golden Nugget is a Tier 1 name in gambling circles, and this company has the financial wherewithal to make some big things happen in Biloxi.

“And let’s not forget to look at the big picture. We’ve seen the major investment at the Palace. Every day we get closer to the opening of Margaritaville, and now this.

“All of this means jobs, jobs, jobs. This is going to translate into more residents, more homeowners, more retail, and an expanding tax base. This is not just about casino resorts. I think it’s going to translate into growth across the board.”

The sale also marks the end of the era for the Biloxi casino market, which this year marks its 20th year, having begun back on Aug. 1, 1992 with the opening of the Isle of Capri’s two dockside riverboat casinos on city-leased land at Point Cadet, on Biloxi’s easternmost tip.

“I remember that day well,” said Holloway, who was Ward 3 councilman at the time. “My son Jeff and I were sitting on a boat getting ready to go to fishing at the Chandeleur Islands for the weekend. People were lined up in the hot sun waiting to walk onto the two dockside boats. The line was just about all the way to the bridge, which was almost a couple football fields away, and the Isle people were bringing them bottled water while they waited in that line.

“I remember my son said, ‘If you’re thinking about running for mayor, now’s the time to do it. It doesn’t get any better than this.'”

Holloway said the Isle ownership at the outset of gaming set the standard for community involvement. “They seemed to be involved in everything,” the mayor said. “Much of the community involvement we see today is following through on a tradition that all started with the Isle.”

After Hurricane Katrina, the Isle moved its corporate headquarters from Biloxi to St. Louis. The casino also moved its gaming operations onshore and its buffet occupied space where extravagant New Year’s Eve parties and other special events had been held.

Said Holloway: “We’ll always have great memories of those exciting early days, and the great job that the management and staff that helped make the Isle such a trailblazing company. And now, we’re beginning a new chapter, which will be just as exciting.”