|By Mary Perez, The Sun
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 26, 2013--BILOXI -- Roy Anderson III, whose company twice built Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi when it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina two days before opening, officially transferred his share of the casino on Friday.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission approved the sale of Anderson's interest in Hard Rock to Leucadia National Corporation, the majority owner of Hard Rock Biloxi.
A decade of influence
Anderson had more than a decade invested as builder and an owner. "My decision is one I made knowing the property will continue to be led by an talented executive management team with a strong capitalized owner that is backed by a group of very dedicated and customer-oriented associates," he said.
Anderson said that after Katrina in 2005, he participated in the rebuild and re-capitalization of the Hard Rock that led to the 2007 grand opening.
"The perseverance and dedication of the Hard Rock Associates is the main reason the property has become a market leader in significant categories, including customer satisfaction and entertainment," he said.
South Mississippi has benefited greatly from the 900 jobs created at Hard Rock, he said, along with the goods and services purchased locally and the taxes generated.
With a new hotel tower opening by New Year's Eve, "The future of the property is unlimited," he said. "This exciting addition brings the Hard Rock closer in line to what was originally envisioned when the initial master plan was first conceived on a legal pad at a meeting in Las Vegas in early 2000."
Another change to the local casino industry is the retirement of Evelyn Green, a professor at the Department of Casino, Hospitality and Tourism Management at The University of Southern Mississippi. She has accepted a faculty in residence position at University of Las Vegas, Singapore.
A commitment to teaching
Green created IPASS, a business and education teaching method that lets students learn directly from industry professionals. She credited Larry Gregory, former Gaming Commission executive director, with opening doors for the students to interact with the casino executives, and Allen Godfrey, the current executive director, with helping continue the program.
"When I first came in to teach no one wanted to work in this industry," she said. In addition to degree programs offered at the university, she said a new certificate program means more people are taking courses for advancement.
More skilled personnel could be needed. John Hairston, chairman of the Gaming Commission, said he's seen more interest in new casino development in the past 120 days than in the past several years since the recession. "The interest is spurred primarily by a surging economy," he said.
Earlier this year the Gaming Commission adopted new minimum standards for developers and Hairston said that made it clear what the Gaming Commission's position is going to be going forward.
"Just packaging the same old game is not going to work anymore," he said.
Hairston said it will take creativity from developers and the tourism industry to attract more people who will stay longer and return for another stay.
"All of this got built from that kind of vision and leadership 23 years ago," he said of the casino industry. "We can do it again."
(c)2013 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)
Visit The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) at www.sunherald.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services