Tonight, St. Mary Parish Council members will vote on whether or not they’re in agreement with moving the Amelia Belle to Baton Rouge, and moving the boat currently over there to Amelia.
My prediction is…predictable.
The switch would give a larger facility to Baton Rouge and a smaller one in Amelia. Of course, you’ll recall I predicted this, as well.
It’s interesting that while this move has been in the rumor mill for quite some time, bringing it up to the St. Mary Parish Council comes just a few days after East Baton Rouge Parish voters gave a nod to a third riverboat in the city, this one owned by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.
Before the vote in East Baton Rouge took place, Columbia-Sussex announced the switch, apparently in an effort to sway votes.
Even if the parish council agrees this evening, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board has to approve the switch. I hear the likelihood of that is marginal, though not impossible.
The Kentucky-based company has fallen under fire in New Jersey and most recently Las Vegas. New Jersey fined the company $750,000 and chastised it mightily.
"’In a word, Tropicana’s regulatory performance since the ... acquisition has been abysmal,’ said commission chairwoman Linda M. Kassekert. The commission said it did not believe Yung could operate the Tropicana as a first-class facility." (Kentucky.com "Regulators trail Yung’s casinos")
The story went on, "Among other problems … ‘massive layoffs’ of hundreds of employees resulted in ‘a cleanliness crisis’ in March. Patrons reported cockroaches, bedbugs and filthy rooms … executives blamed the union, saying it sabotaged the place."
Meanwhile, according to OnlineCasinoAdvisory.com, Columbia-Sussex head honcho William Yung "has also had problems with background checks in Missouri, and a New Orleans riverboat, where Yung’s first action upon purchasing the casino was to lay off over 100 employees. Yung’s Baton Rouge riverboat has seen jobs shrunk from over 1,000 to 800. Mississippi is currently investigating Yung and Columbia-Sussex, as well."
Bondholders themselves are growing concerned and have sued Columbia-Sussex. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"Wilmington Trust Co., trustee for the owners of senior subordinated notes, is suing for $960 million, accusing the Crestview Hills-based casino company owned by William Yung III of ‘gross mismanagement’ that led New Jersey officials to deny a gambling license – only the second time in Garden State history – for the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City."
It seems apparent to me that any good faith negotiations with Columbia-Sussex should be viewed with a grain of salt. Make that a pound of salt.
With seven of 11 council members residing across the Calumet Cut, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion which way the vote will go to allow the boats to be swapped. How Louisiana gaming regulators and the state police will view that switch remains unknown.
I’ll make another prediction, with a caveat: I’ll bet you five bucks if that boat leaves Amelia, another one won’t take its place. I’m gambling on this one, because that’s just my gut instinct, otherwise I’d bet you ten bucks.
It continues to befuddle and appall me that parish government chooses to buddy around with these kind of folks. So far, the cost of their hand-holding with Columbia-Sussex has included loss of revenue sharing by the cities and sheriff’s office from the Chitimacha Tribe due to a dramatic decrease in our bottom line.
Remember, I do not speak on behalf of tribal government. To the credit of my tribal leadership, they continue to work with non-tribal officials in some spirit of cooperation.
Can you imagine that, friends and neighbors? Who claims the moral and civil high-ground here?
Certainly I have a personal stake in this and have never tried to evade that truth.
I liken Chitimacha to a municipality, not too dissimilar from Franklin, Baldwin or Morgan City. The two main differences between ourselves and other cities are: We exist as a sovereign tribal nation, and we do not receive an income base from sales and property taxes or the like, such as municipalities and other governments do. Our revenues come mostly from Cypress Bayou Casino.
The question should be repeated: Would any other municipality in the parish take kindly to the parish meddling in their revenue streams? They really have, anyway. Franklin, for example, is losing $75,000 a year because of parish meddling.
It’s been pointed out that location of the riverboat in St. Mary was approved by parish voters, and that’s true. I submit that the electorate was swayed by a strong eastern campaign for voter influence, and a heavy involvement by certain officials "on their own time." Don’t kid me, gents. You were seen out and about on that election day.
Meanwhile, over the 14-year history of our relationship with parish government, we’ve contributed tens of millions to local coffers; likely hundreds of millions in salaries and local spending; millions more in contributions to various worthwhile civic and community projects, and just plain bent over backwards to be good citizens of this parish.
We’ve welcomed all local officials to our restaurants, our steakhouses and our functions, though they gripe now about not getting many freebies. Go figure.
But what is really behind this bush we all keep beating around is this: Some folks around Morgan City wanted a casino of their own and once they got the power in their hands, they did something about it. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. They also wanted a golf course that would impress a PGA veteran and a clubhouse like a palace, and they got it.
On this end of the parish, we got…?
The shaft, that’s what. And I don’t think it’s over yet.