As longtime readers know, my favorite casino in the world was probably the Treasure Bay in Biloxi. There’s nothing much cooler than a riverboat casino that actually looks like a pirate ship. It also had the coolest carpet ever: a treasure map. When I heard that the casino wasn’t insured, I feared that, after being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the Treasure Bay would become just a memory. But according to the LVRJ, the future is bright:
Hurricane Katrina accomplished what three other storms couldn’t — sink the buccaneer-themed Treasure Bay casino.
But Bernie Burkholder, who opened the pirate ship-styled gambling barge in 1994, isn’t ready to walk the plank.
He vowed to open a land-based, albeit smaller, version of the Treasure Bay by June once he secures financing.
“Some of the money will come through insurance proceeds, as well as from savings and from selling what we can salvage,” said Burkholder, watching as construction crews demolished the Treasure Bay’s dockside facilities. “But the largest portion will come from borrowing.”
Fellow Gulf Coast casino operators openly expressed admiration for Burkholder. Privately, many cast doubt on his ability to obtain financing to bring back the Treasure Bay.
During its years of operation, the Treasure Bay was more of a photo opportunity for tourists than a Gulf Coast gaming leader.
Today, the site sits amid a section of the Mississippi coastline ravaged by Katrina’s 135 mph winds and 30-foot storm surge. Motels, restaurants and bars and souvenir shops that were neighbors to the casino lay in ruins. In the Treasure Bay parking lot, casino debris was strewn about. Discarded “Silver Crew” slot club cards were scattered in the sand.
Before Katrina hit, the Treasure Bay had 978 slot machines and 47 table games on a 41,000 square foot-barge built to resemble a Jolly Roger. In addition to restaurants, the Treasure Bay operated a small hotel across Highway 90.
All were damaged beyond repair by the hurricane on Aug. 29. The barge broke from its moorings and came to rest about 100 yards from its dock, dragging two of its four 60-inch concrete and metal-cased pylons.
Because it wasn’t part of a publicly traded company, it is unclear what Treasure Bay contributed to the Gulf Coast’s $1.2 billion in annual gaming revenue.
“We had more of a loss history than other properties,” said Burkholder, president and chief executive officer of the privately held Treasure Bay LLC, which also operates three Caribbean Island casinos.
This casino will reopen, mateys
The Treasure Bay reopening is good news, but I wonder what will happen to the original pirate ship?
In other news, I’m currently in Rolla, Missouri, getting ready to give a lecture on “A Brief History of Gambling.” I had a great discussion this morning with Prof. Larry Gragg’s history class–look for some pictures later in the week.
Here’s a travel advisory: for my third consecutive trip out of Nevada, it has rained. My trip to New Hampshire was heralded by flooding; in Portland it rained, and here in Missouri I saw an incredible downpour this morning. I don’t know what that means, but I’m glad that I brought a jacket.