By MARK M. MILAM
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND One day after the Casino Del Mar bid bon voyage to the
Rio Grande Valley, Casino Padre officials said their gambling boat would be
back in operation on Thursday.
The Casino Padre was to depart this week to Corpus Christi for a scheduled
inspection. However, officials learned that the site for the inspection would
not be ready for a few weeks. The U.S. Coast Guard granted them an extension
of the mandatory inspection.
Mark Schrecengost, general manager of the Casino Padre, said that it is
anticipated that the gambling ship will leave for dry-docking at the first of
The decision to keep the Casino Padre in operation for a few more weeks is
good news for Valley residents and Winter Texans who enjoy a few hours of
gambling. On Monday, Casino Del Mar officials ceased operations of the
Valleys other gambling ship citing an overestimation of the gambling market.
Schrecengost said he believes that there is a market for their type of
operation and that the circumstances afford them a chance to gain potential
There is a very valuable market here. We have a pretty good opportunity to
catch some of the market and with the size of the ship it is a very viable
product in this market, Schrecengost. We enjoyed the competition, they
(Casino Del Mar) were very good competitors and they had a nice product. We
have a great product here and we are very happy with the fact that it is an
opportunity for us to go after the market.
One of the major concerns with the departure of the Casino Del Mar was that
their operational crew of 150, were being left unemployed. Casino Padre
officials said that there would be a variety of positions available on the
boat and that already some of the displaced workers had come seeking jobs.
Already interest is starting to show as anxious customers have kept the
telephones ringing constantly, Schrecengost said.
The vessel, which docks at the Sea Ranch Fishing Pier, began sailing on Nov.
15. Owned by SureBet Casino, Inc. of Pensacola, Fla., the ship can carry up to
320 passengers for offshore gambling excursions. After serving in a similar
capacity in Florida and after considerable analysis, the company saw a great
potential in South Texas.
After doing a lot of research, the Valley has an enormous amount of people
and continues to be a growing market and throughout the growth, between the
Winter Texans as well as the summer visitors and just the fact that we have
all the maquiladoras on the border, it appears to be a market that has no
end, Schrecengost said.
Valley Freedom Newspapers
McALLEN Charter Palms Behavioral Health System, a 17-year-old psychiatric
care facility in McAllen, will soon close its doors, eliminating the Rio
Grande Valleys only option for private inpatient care for mental illness or
The treatment center is one of 25 such facilties to be shut down by parent
company, Charter Behavioral Health Systems, based in Alpharetta, Ga. The
company has not set dates for the closings.
Charter Palms, with 80 beds and 109 employees, is the most recent facility to
fall victim to a decade-long trend away from lengthy hospital stays, said
Bobbi Passavanti, a company spokeswoman. The downsizing is an attempt to
remain economically viable in the new mental health landscape.
Unlike public facilities, which are required to provide care regardless of
patients ability to pay, Charter Palms receives payment through patients
private insurance companies. Managed health care has eliminated hospital stays
in all but the most severe cases, Passavanti said.
Harlingen chamber of
commerce fires vice president
HARLINGEN Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce officials fired the agencys
vice president for economic development, Chairwoman Anne Shepard said Tuesday.
Chamber officials fired Richard Wilson for poor job performance, Shepard said.
Wilson did not return messages requesting comment.
Wilson, a Brownsville native who had worked for 3 years with the Brownsville
Economic Development Council, was hired last spring at a salary of $62,500 to
manage staff, oversee finances and conduct marketing work, officials said.
The chamber has worked without a president and chief executive officer since
December, when Shirley Clowers resigned.
Independent truckers continue
strike for higher freight rates
PROGESO Grain trucks laid idle for the second day as drivers continue their
strike for higher freight rates.
About 200 independent non-union truckers went on strike at 8 a.m. Monday at
four grain brokers in Progreso and Los Indios, said Ernest Leija, an Edinburg
The strike started after three weeks of talks failed with Bee Agriculture of
Beeville, the company that sets freight rates.
The truckers want rates to increase 10 cents for every 100 pounds of grain
they haul on their trucks. The raise will compensate for escalating prices for
diesel fuel, they said.
McAllen to take backseat
in underground pollution suit
McALLEN The cleanup of two large underground plumes of gasoline and other
chemicals contaminating more than 30 acres of a populated area of South
McAllen is not the responsibility of the city, Mayor Leo Montalvo said
But he said the contamination, revealed in a lawsuit in state district court,
should be cleaned up.
The city is going to take a back seat and see what develops during the course
of discovery (in the suit), Montalvo said.
That (the cleanup) is between the private ownership and the alleged companies
at fault, Montalvo said.