In his first 12 years in office, Mayor A.J. Holloway watched the boom in the Gulf casino industry fuel his city’s economic prosperity.

Holloway said Wednesday at the opening session of the global gaming expo at the Red Rock resort that the casino will serve as a catalyst to once again revitalize small communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina last year.

“We’re going to look at things that have made us successful in the past,” said Holloway, who just started his four-year term as mayor of Biloxi when Hurricane Katrina hit the community on Aug. 29. “We’re going to build on those qualities that will help make us a lot more successful in the future.”

Before Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi’s 10 casinos earned $911 million in gaming revenue in 2004, which provided taxes to bolster the city’s budget. Around 30 feet of storm surge and 130 mph winds dismantled the city’s gaming industry, which helped make Mississippi the third richest casino state in the U.S., after Nevada and New Jersey.

Three Biloxi casinos reopened in December. Several gaming companies, including Harah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage, said they would reopen Biloxi casinos this summer. Other casino operators have hinted at opening rebuilt casinos by the end of the year.

“There’s a difference between actually reopening and saying you’re going to reopen,” said Tim Hinkley, president of Capri Casino. His company’s Biloxi property reopened in December with a temporary casino located in the hotel’s convention space. The expansion, which is expected to be completed next week, will give the property 1,300 slot machines and gaming tables.

Hinkley participated in a panel discussion with Holloway to revive the Gulf Cost gaming market.

“I think everything we’ve heard gives us confidence that Biloxi will be back,” Hinckley said.

Game revenue from the three reopened casinos was $64.2 million in January, $58.8 million in February and $63.7 million in March, accounting for about 70% of revenue from the 10 casinos in the previous year, according to Mississippi Game Revenue Statistics.

Under the revised Mississippi Gaming Regulation, which allows casinos 800 feet from the Gulf Coast, Holloway predicts between 15 and 20 casinos will pass the Mississippi coastline by 2010.

He said the rebuilding of the Highway 90 bridge, which connects the Biloxi Peninsula to Miss Ocean Springs in the east, will help bring tourists back. The new bridge could be opened in 15 months after a construction deal was signed in June.

Still, Holloway said visitors were finding their way into the casino area. He said his own examination of the license plates in casino parking lots showed vehicles from other parts of Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi.

“It was a common belief that casino customers would be construction workers and FEMA employees,” Holloway said. “But visitors started coming back.”

Before the hurricane, Biloxi developed $6 billion during Holloway’s first three terms. The casino employed 15,000 people, while the number of hotel rooms on the Gulf Coast increased from 6,000 to 20,000.

“We’ve gone from a million visitors a year to between eight million and 10 million a year,” said Holloway. “When Boribas opened in 1999, we jumped to $775 million in gaming revenue, a 35 percent year-on-year increase. In 2004, the casino in Biloxi earned $911 million. That’s an 18 percent increase in the five years since Bo opened.”

Hinckley said Biloxi’s biggest requirements are affordable housing and infrastructure. Jobs are becoming available, he said. Island of Capri has employed more than 1,000 workers since reopening.

“We have to give those employees a place to live,” said Hinkley.

The hurricane wiped out 6,000 homes and businesses in Biloxi and several historic homes and landmarks along Highway 90, which runs along the coastline.

Holloway said Biloxi’s land value has doubled and tripled, especially in the community of Point Cade, on the eastern edge of the hurricane-destroyed peninsula. Nearly all of the old dwellings in the area bordering the casino district have been destroyed. Holloway said he expects the area to be a commercial area that enhances the returning casino industry. 파워볼사이트 추천

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