By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — The Silver Slipper casino may physically be located across the Mississippi state line in Bay St. Louis.
But the casino is as much a part of the Slidell economy as almost every business that has a store front in St. Tammany Parish.
That point was made again with the recent “Business After Hours” event at the Slipper, that is annually sponsored by both the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce and the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce.
Silver Slipper Chief Operating Officer John Ferrucci said his company views St. Tammany Parish as a vital part of the formula for success at the casino, which is why the Slipper has a high profile in the Slidell area sponsoring a multitude of events.
“We recognize how important the St. Tammany market is for our success, so we make an effort to be a part of the business community there,” he said. “We have to think on a broad level since we are situated in a location where we need to draw from Southeast Louisiana.”
The Silver Slipper is continually sponsoring charitable events and business functions in the Slidell area, and Ferrucci said they placed a high priority on funding those events since the beginning of their existence.
Ferrucci said the Slipper “budgets over $100,000 a year for charitable organizations and events,” something that is quite clear to Slidellians by the many non-profit functions that have the casino listed as a sponsor.
“We get requests every day from so many different groups,” he said. “We generally don’t do anything with schools since we don’t want to send the wrong message, but we even get requests from churches to fund things they are doing.
“We sponsor many events in Slidell since it’s important for us to support this community. We want to see the businesses and groups succeed here, since we are a part of the economy in Slidell and St. Tammany Parish,” he explained.
The Slipper opened in 2006 in Bay St. Louis as the closest Gulf Coast casino to the St. Tammany Parish area. The 100,000 square foot building with over 1,000 slot machines and table games promoted the fact it was going to also build a hotel there, but that was never followed up on—until now.
Ferrucci confirmed this past week that the Slipper has just signed paperwork to sell the casino for $75 million to Full House Resorts, a small casino company that is again promising they will build a hotel on the beach in Hancock County.
“The new ownership is definitely going to build the hotel now and that is going to really expand what we have to offer,” Ferrucci said. “They won’t break ground on it the first day, but I expect the hotel to start construction within a year.”
Meanwhile, he said, the Slipper plans to continue reaching out to St. Tammany Parish and Southeast Louisiana, where he said more than 50 percent of their business comes from.
Ferrucci said the approach by the Slipper is not just sponsoring charitable events, but doing all they can to support the business community here. As businesses increase and grow in St. Tammany, he said, the casino will get their share.
“We don’t do things in St. Tammany just thinking about how we can convince people to come gamble. People are going to gamble,” he said. “We want to continue being a support, and being a part of the business community in the Slidell area since their success will help us get our share of that success.”
As one of the smaller casinos on the Gulf Coast, Ferrucci said it is more important for them to be involved in the surrounding business community.
“We are local and our target is to be a part of the local business world,” he added. “But also as a smaller casino, we have to do things better than others so when people say ‘hey, let’s go to a casino on the coast,’ they remember what a good experience they had at our place, and want to come back.”
With the new ownership coming in, expecting to close the deal within two weeks, Ferrucci said they expect things to only improve at the Slipper.
“Full House Resorts is a smaller casino company and they liked us since we fit in with that,” he said. “They also like what we are doing, which has proven to be successful, and therefore want to keep doing the same things. The thinking is that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Ferrucci said casino revenue in the past year is continuing a recent trend of improving numbers, after a slight dip two years ago.