City issues report on impact of gaming

The Biloxi casino market in its first 20 years has generated more than $1.7 billion in state and local gaming taxes, including nearly $340 million to allow the city to make improvements in public safety, parks and recreation, and streets and drainage while keeping city property taxes in check.

“Gaming 20/20: a vision of success,” a new report that is being issued as the Southern Gaming Summit meets in Biloxi this week, is an eight-page compendium that uses charts, graphs and photos to show some of the quality-of-life improvements made since the first Biloxi casino opened on Aug. 1, 1992.

The gaming industry, over its 20 years in Biloxi, has accounted for more than $6 billion in new construction, 15,000 direct jobs, and has grown the number of visitors from a million a year to between 8 and 10 million a year at its peak. Before gaming, the report notes, Biloxi was on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Mayor A.J. Holloway, who was a city councilman in 1992, recalled the long lines of people who waited in sweltering heat to board the Isle of Capri’s two paddle wheelers at Point Cadet that first day.

“No one envisioned the scope or the impact gaming would have on Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the next 20 years,” Holloway said. “People ask what have you done with the millions and millions in casino tax revenue. The answer is easy, I tell them. It’s three words. ‘Just look around.'”

“Gaming 20/20,” which also discusses the city’s wink-and-nod acceptance of gaming before it was actually legalized, details the millions of dollars that the city has spent on public education, producing three national Blue Ribbon schools and numerous state awards; what Holloway likes to call “the best-trained, best-paid and best-equipped police and fire departments in the state”; and a Parks and Recreation Department that for years abolished fees for city sports leagues.

Said Holloway: “We’ve done these things while actually lowering the city property tax rate and maintaining our small-town charm and sense of place.”

To read the report,
click here.