Casino turns 20

VooDoo works on barbecue, too
January 7, 2014
Carla Bernard Sapia
January 8, 2014
VooDoo works on barbecue, too
January 7, 2014
Carla Bernard Sapia
January 8, 2014

It got its start in 1988 as a bingo hall, growing in 1993 – one year after Hurricane Andrew – into the state’s first high-stakes bingo and land-based casino.

Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel, owned and operated by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, turned 20 in December.

Tribal Council Chairman John Paul Darden said the operation has grown from 250 employees to 1,095 “just on the casino side.”

After Hurricane Andrew damaged the original structure, the Chitimacha’s agreed to split the operation to include 450 slot machines and the bingo hall. Today, with more than 320,000 square feet – 65,000 of which are devoted to gaming – the casino has more than 1,300 slot machines in all denominations, as well as 34 gaming tables operating around the clock.

The casino is also home to The Pavilion, which seats more than 2,000 people, for concerts and live events, Darden said. In addition to Rox, a weekend nightclub, the casino is home to seven eateries, including Mr. Lester’s Steakhouse, where last month’s celebration was held.

Cypress Bayou Casino’s most recent addition – the hotel – is a three-story facility home to 102 rooms.

“The hotel, too, has been a success for us,” Darden said. “It has done very well. We are very proud of the facility.”

Since its inception, Darden said expansion has been steady.

The tribe would build more as it raised the necessary funding.

“It’s all come in small steps, baby steps,” he said. “But look where it’s gotten us. We have a very nice facility here.”

With the monies generated by the casino and hotel, Darden said the tribe has benefited. In addition to building and staffing full-time police and fire departments, the tribal council built a new health clinic, senior center and day care facility.

Darden said infrastructure improvements, a new sewer plant, school expansions and sidewalks are also evidence of Cypress Bayou’s success. The tribe now also enjoys an on-site grocery store, and work on a convenience store is underway.

“From the beginning, we’ve tried to be great neighbors and good partners with the community,” Darden said.

The operation has paid more than $500 million in employee salaries and benefits and spent millions with local businesses.

“We try to do most things locally,” Darden said. “We like to support the local community as much as we can.”

That includes hiring locally, contracting locally and giving to local charities.

“This has all been possible due to the loyalty and integrity of our employees and team members,” he said. “Also, I’d like to thank the hard work, dedication and vision of our tribal members. Everyone from the beginning has had a part in making us who we are today.”

At last month’s ceremony, Darden also welcomed Anthony Patrone, general manager and chief executive officer at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel.

Patrone brings more than 25 years’ experience in the casino industry to the job. He was a senior vice president at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for many years and also held senior executive positios at Seminole Gaming in Florida.

“Anthony has unique qualifications and boundless enthusiasm for our business,” Darden said. “We are delighted that he will be leading our enterprise and we look forward to working together in continuing to deliver a superior gaming and entertainment product.”

Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel General Manager and CEO Anthony Patrone, Chitimacha Council Member Jackie Junca, Vice Chairman April Wyatt and Chairman John Paul Darden cut the cake at the operation’s 20th anniversary.