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Casino taking gamble — proposes to move gaming inland in Port City

Talk about your radical ideas.

A group is proposing to move the gaming operations of Greenville’s Trop Casino inland, and in its place add a new restaurant and create an outdoor entertainment area that is family-friendly.

More surprising still, the proposal is from the casino itself.

Trop Casino in Greenville, along with its parent, Las Vegas, Nev.-based Tropicana Entertainment Inc., has unveiled a plan to move its nearly 600 slot machines and seven gaming tables from the city’s waterfront on Lake Ferguson to an on-land site south of its current facility, according to The Delta Democrat Times.

The proposal calls a new restaurant on the waterfront and taking about half of Schelben Park for a two-level parking garage and an enhanced playground and outdoor entertainment venue for open-air concerts, nature-watching and other activities.

Why would a casino volunteer such a plan? One of the challenges facing the state’s casinos is providing non-gaming activities. Casinos can only hold patrons so long with gambling.

The casino and its parent company, Las Vegas-based Tropicana Entertainment Inc., told city officials this past week that its plans meet this challenge by enhancing Greenville’s underdeveloped lake front.

“We are trying to create a better environment for gaming and for families. We are not expanding gaming, just taking it off the boat,” said Chuck Coleman, Tropicana Entertainment’s vice president for development.

The proposal includes a 250-seat, fine-dining restaurant with a non-casino entrance for family access to be built above a two-level parking structure.

“This will be a $2-million expansion just for the two-level parking deck,” Lance Millage, Tropicana Entertainment’s chief financial officer, told the council. “We want to demonstrate our long-term commitment to Greenville.”

The proposal calls for a new lease between the Trop and the city that would allow the casino to absorb half of Schelben Park for additional parking, which company officials said would benefit lake and park visitors as well as casino patrons. The Trop would pay the city $150,000, which could be used for park enhancements.

“We also want to redo the playground, provide a place where families can sit again on the levee side and watch bands. Kids can be playing on the playground and parents can be enjoying the music,” Coleman said.

Millage said while the parking lot would occupy what now is park space, the plan calls for doing so in an environmentally friendly fashion.

“We will save as many trees as possible,” Millage said. “We will replace trees elsewhere to keep the greenery.”

This is certainly a radical plan proposed by Tropicana. But, Greenville faces serious economic and community development issues, and the city is forced to entertain radical solutions.

Whether the proposal is in the best interest for the Mississippi Delta’s largest city is yet to be determined, but at least it is forward-looking. For Greenville, forward is the only way to look.

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