Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

An eyewitness to tragedy

An Eyewitness to Tragedy

Gamblers beware: don't take a chance on getting hurt at your local casino!

By Earnest McBride
Jackson Advocate Contributing Editor

11 June 2009  

It is almost inevitable that a major, deadly tragedy -- one almost certainly preventable-- is going to happen real soon at at least one--and perhaps, in some form, at all--of Vicksburg's five casinos.

Between 10-foot-long wild alligators lurking in the shadows of Diamond Jack's Casino for more than four weeks now and women with broken bones having to lie in pain on a rain-soaked casino hotel driveway for an hour before getting medical attention, and having to contend with downright surly, incompetent casino employees whose only apparent goal in life is to insult the very customers who pay for their livelihood---mark my words, severe tragedy is in the making at Vicksburg's casinos.

In the past year alone, this writer has been either the eyewitness to or the trusted confident of the victims of a number of tragic accidents and violent incidents at four of Vicksburg's five casinos, all of which were badly handled with little true concern shown to the victim by casino workers. Other incidents reported by friends show a continuing pattern of practice at the four named casinos (Ameristar, Diamond Jack's, Rainbow and Horizon. The fifth casino, Riverwalk, has only been in operation a little over six months and hasn't had its shot at infamy yet, so far as our reports show.)

 Most recently, this writer witnessed the sadly-bungled effort at getting help for a woman who suffered a broken ankle while rushing to catch the shuttle bus at Ameristar Casino Hotel shortly after 10 a.m. on a rainy Friday, June 5.

Instead of the security guards and their bosses immediately calling 911 to aid the woman whose shoe heel got caught in the crack of a poorly-paved hotel driveway, they chose to let the her lie on her back, exposed to the rain for more than half-an-hour with her foot dangling at a gut-wrenching angle before performing what the average concerned citizen would consider to be an obvious act: Call 911!

 Even after this writer called the Warren County Sheriff's office to expedite matters after seeing the woman lying on her back on the wet pavement for a long time, Ameristar security personnel seemed more concerned about covering up the matter instead of getting all the help the possible for the longsuffering Caucasian female. Thanks to the early attention of a member of a Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle club, the suffering lady found some compassionate attention from a fellow human being, but not from the Ameristar staff.

Instead of thanking me for my effort to get emergency help via the telephone, a black man identified as a supervisor of security approached me in a threatening manner and ordered me to get off the phone while I was explaining the situation to the 911 dispatcher on the other end of the line. This act of intimidation took place at least a half-hour after the woman contracted the broken ankle.   Even that late into the accident, the man on the 911 line told me no one from Ameristar had called in to report an emergency. (A few minutes later, however, the 911 dispatcher said someone from Ameristar had just called.)

Veteran Sheriff's Deputy Lionel Johnson drove up to the Shell Ameristar service station at the same time that I had backed away from the threatening security chief, who had resumed his position hovering over the suffering woman lying in front of the hotel a good 150 yards away. I gave one of my business cards to the deputy and asked him to take it over to the woman before the emergency vehicles came to take her away. He said that he would do so, although I have not yet heard from the victim in this sad and tragic comedy of errors committed by Ameristar.

Gators in the park

For nearly a month now, a 10-foot-long alligator has lurked in the Mississippi within a few yards of the rear entrance of Diamond Jack's Hotel and very near the city's unprotected Riverfront Park, where hundreds of unsuspecting children could fall victim to the wily predator. Although the casino security and management know of the gator lurking in the bushes less than a football-field's length from their business, they have taken no action to capture the gator, so far. The state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is the proper bureau to control such animals.

As late as last Tuesday, Diamond Jack's security people seemed little concerned about the hundreds of children at play daily in the nearby park and the scores of kids and adults that swim daily in the hotel's pool, all of them only a hungry gator's lunge away. Peering out onto the river from behind the hotel's lobby, Diamond Jack's security detail seemed more amused at seeing the gator up close than concerned about the health and well-being of their adult customers and the many children who may stumble across the hungry gator one day soon.

Heart-stopping failures at Rainbow

Early last year, a black woman in her fifties fell flat to the floor in the middle of a card game at Rainbow Casino. It took security more than 15 minutes to secure the area around the woman. And it took another 15 minutes before the emergency medical services arrived on the scene. Although the woman was rumored to have died because of the lack of a heartbeat at first, it was the professional 911 medical team who jump-started the woman's heart and got her to the hospital in time to spare here life. At last report, the woman had fully recovered, but no details about her brain condition after being without a heartbeat for such a long time were provided by Rainbow personnel.

A friend falls at Horizon

On January 5, a close friend of this writer was still in the recovery stages of major surgery from three months earlier when she slipped and fell on an overly wet floor in the rest room at Vicksburg's Horizon Casino. While in pain and anguish as she lay on the casino toilet floor that was inundated with water from a recent cleaning, the 40-something single mother feared that the sutures still inside her from her October operation had been ruptured. Horizon security personnel agreed to drive her to the emergency room at River Region Hospital, but they refused to drive her home from the hospital, although she was still suffering from the pain.  She was, instead, driven back to the casino and had to call a taxi to take her home. She was too sick to drive herself home, she says, although she owns her own car.  She has consulted a trustworthy Jackson lawyer to pursue the case for her, she told the Jackson Advocate Monday afternoon.

Horizon's refusal to drive her home is nothing more than a petty ruse at covering their own butts by essentially saying that my friend was not injured enough to require serious medical attention. Casino habitu's know full well that all the Vicksburg casinos have shuttle buses that at one time took casino customers wherever they wanted to go, including driving them home after a night out at the casino.

Another lady falls at Diamond Jack's

A black woman of substantial means, known to casino management as a "high roller," also reports poor treatment by casino employees after she fell down a flight of stairs at Diamond Jack's Casino several months ago. Adding insult to injury, casino security offered little attention and even less sympathy as she tried to pull herself up from the floor. A female security supervisor allegedly even mocked her and suggested that she was faking her injuries, and then started to just walk away from the scene of the accident. A lower-ranked security guard allegedly informed her boss that she had seen this visitor from northern Mississippi snag her heel and fall down the steps, all to no practical effect, since the black female security supervisor wasn't concerned about the customer's injuries.

This case has pretty much been covered up and given little attention by casino personnel since it happened in February, the victim says.  But she still wants to speak to the managers of Diamond Jack's about the surliness of the female security chief who scorned and insulted her during her period of pain and duress at the casino.

Poor Race Relations at all casinos

Why are the casino managers so lax and indifferent when it comes to the safety and well-being of their customers and a seeming lack of respect for the -- mostly black--nearby residents who must bear the burden of having these glittering, rhinestone plastic palaces in their backyards?

Some former black casino executives from the Vicksburg area report that the mostly Las Vegas-based white owners are concerned about profits first. But the owners also show a definite preference for the white "high-roller" customers and provide an enormous number of amenities to attract those that the regular customers are hardly aware of. Vicksburg's casino visitors form a solid 80 percent of the client base at all the casinos on most days.

"The perceptions that a lot of black people have expressed about white casino customers getting more comps and a warmer welcome in Vicksburg and elsewhere are true, for the most part," said one of the former black executives who asked to remain anonymous for the present. "You've probably noticed a de-emphasis of black music---blues and R&B---on the live entertainment stages at all the casinos. The color of the entertainment is a great insight into the color of the clients casino management seeks to attract. Notice how the crowds on the dance floors have shifted from black to white at one of the bigger players in the area. Hardly any black people show up there anymore for the entertainment. Now go to the other casino where the soul music is being revived, and what do you see? Many of the same black faces that used to show up at the previous casino. Entertainment is a key indicator of a casino's racial policy. And just as many people's suspicions suggest, there is a definite preference at most casinos for the high-income white clientele over the moderately-spending blacks. This becomes more evident if you go to the various site locations of the different casinos outside of Mississippi. Where Vicksburg is acknowledged to be a predominantly black market and that some concessions have to be made to keep the local clients onboard, there is no such concern on the part of casino management located in the predominantly white areas like Council Bluffs, Iowa, or .   

Of the five Vicksburg casinos, Ameristar is the only one to attract something near a 50-percent white customer base during the daylight hours on weekends. At other times, however, Ameristar, too, finds itself overwhelmed by an ethnic black client base that it would prefer not having. Ameristar's Bottleneck Blues Bar presents woefully little blues there nowadays. It has been at least a year or more since a legitimate "blues" band to appear there.

Genuine Mississippi blues artists like Eddie Cotton, King Edward and Vasti Jackson always packed the Bottleneck Blues Bar years ago, the dance floors being jammed with black and white dancers who displayed an obvious joy with such great entertainment.

Today, only a handful of black customers show up for the freak bands and the country-and-western collages that dominate Ameristar's two musical stages. Horizon Casino's Mulberry room proves began drawing such overflow black crowds at its DJ-music Wednesday night mixers, it has expanded the dates to Fridays and Saturdays. Yet even here, the arbitrary dress rules and imposed mandates on personal conduct show a disdain for individual rights of free expression. Still the crowds being entertained on the weekends at Horizon display a much greater felicity for their surroundings than anything the interested observer is likely to see at Ameristar for awhile.

 More on this issue will be covered in future issues of the Jackson Advocate. For the immediate present, we advise all casino customers to be aware of the possible tragedy lurking near the river banks and the lackluster treatment likely to be forthcoming at Vicksburg's five casinos following such a tragedy.

Category: African American History | Subcategory: Reports | Tags: Mississippi , South Dakota , Iowa
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 2009, Ark, Blues, Edward, GE, Hood, Iowa, Jack, Jackson, John, Las Vegas (Nevada), Mississippi, Old, South Dakota, Vicksburg (MIssissippi), Ward, Warren,