It has been nearly three months since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast , leaving a devastating trail of personal tragedy and loss in its wake. As the glare of the round the clock news coverage begins to fade, and America slowly returns to its normal everyday life, Penn National Gaming continues to assist its 2,000 Gulf Coast employees displaced by this unprecedented natural disaster.
Through the support of our employees companywide, as well as our Corporate Board of Directors and major vendors, the Penn National Gaming Foundation’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Project has raised $1.4 million to date to directly assist our Gulf Coast employees who are beginning to rebuild their lives.
We applaud the creative fundraising efforts by some of our properties, such as Casino Rama, which sold T-shirts that employees could wear to work with the theme of “Friends Helping Friends”. Meanwhile, at Casino Rouge and Hollywood Casino Tunica, our employees have led clothing and food drives and have been helping to secure temporary housing for those displaced by the storm. Employees of Argosy Sioux City donated enough clothes and goods to fill an entire tractor-trailer. Their HR director personally delivered these much-needed items to the Boomtown “ Command Center .” It is truly heartening to see how our entire Penn family has come together to help their fellow employees in their time of need.
We are happy to report that our Employee Assistance “Hotline” has been able to reach nearly all of our 2,000 Gulf Coast employees, and we’ll continue our efforts to locate those who remain unaccounted for. As you’ll recall, this “Hotline” has been manned at Penn National Race Course, where in the weeks following the storm our employees were putting in double shifts to keep the phones open seven days a week, as many as 18 hours a day.
While our Gulf Coast employees’ spirits remain strong, the extent of damage they’ve sustained is staggering -- many were able to escape with little more than a handful of personal possessions and the clothes on their backs. A majority have no home to return to. To date, more than 1,200 applications for assistance have been filed with the Katrina Relief Project. An Independent Selection Committee has been working hard to process the applications, and checks are being mailed to those in need.
Meanwhile, in addition to our announcement in September that full pay and benefits would be extended for 90 days, we’ve been helping with job placement at Penn’s sister properties and with other gaming companies. One of our relocated employees was recently featured by the local news media at her new job in Bangor , Maine , the home of our newest gaming facility, Hollywood Slots at Bangor .
As for what the future holds for Casino Magic-Bay St. Louis and Boomtown Biloxi, on November 17, Len DeAngelo, Executive Vice President of Operations, will appear before the Mississippi Gaming Commission to express our strong desire to rebuild both properties. Len will be sharing with the Commission our preliminary reconstruction plans as expressed by Peter Carlino, Chairman and CEO, to Wall Street on our recent earnings call.
At Casino Magic-Bay St. Louis, for example, although there is damage on virtually every floor of the hotel there, it remains structurally sound. Since the gaming barge was destroyed, we intend to repair the hotel and its common areas and reopen as soon as practical in a temporary facility there -- possibly in the 10,000 square feet area of the hotel ballroom. At the same time, we’ve engaged architects to design a land-based product that would be an adjunct to the hotel.
At Boomtown, the gaming barge was dislocated from the property and suffered significant damage. It is our intention to reconstruct the barge and operate it from an adjacent property that we own and resume gaming there just as soon as practical.
Thank you for your continued support of your sister properties in their time of need. Calls and letters have been streaming in from our Gulf Coast employees with words of thanks, and most importantly, hope for a better tomorrow.