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Isle casino lays off 200 employees

The Isle of Capri has laid off about 200 employees due to a slowing seasonal business and the lingering effects caused by the U.S. 90 bridge being out since Hurricane Katrina, the casino’s general manager said.

“We still have more employees than we had prior to the storm,” said general manager Bill Kilduff. “But we have less employees than we had utilized during the summer.”

The casino now has 1,100 workers.

About a third of the laid off employees were contract, while the rest were full and part-time workers.

Kilduff said business normally picks up in February and March as golfers and gamblers from the Midwest vacation on the Gulf Coast. He said the company is hoping to hire more employees for those months.

“Our concern is if the snowbirds don’t come back, it’s going to be a long winter,” he said.

Another concern has been the traffic interruption due to the U.S. 90 bridge being out.

“One of the situations that is difficult for the Isle of Capri as well as the Palace and Harrah’s (Grand Casino Biloxi), with the bridge closed, all three casinos are virtually at the end of a dead-end road,” Kilduff said.

“We don’t get impulse business. People pretty much have to make a conscious effort to come to see us. There’s not a whole lot of traffic down at our end of the Point. We know that’s going to change when the Ocean Springs bridge opens.”

The Isle reopened nearly a year ago. It was the second Coast casino back in business after Katrina slammed ashore on Aug. 29, 2005.

Kilduff said the casino plans to pursue expansion plans in Biloxi in the future.