Holloway on the challenges facing casino gaming, tourism in Biloxi

Here are Mayor A.J. Holloway’s prepared remarks delivered May 7, 2008 at the Southern Gaming Summit at the Coast Coliseum, where the mayor took part in the panel discussion about the future of casino gambling.

Good morning and thank all of you for being here.

I’m delighted to be a part of this panel because I think we have a great story to tell here in Biloxi and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I also know that we face a number of challenges and decisions that are going to have implications for years to come.

However, let me say up front that I am encouraged by what we have seen in the gaming industry since Hurricane Katrina.

The Biloxi market has and continues to report great numbers. That’s a credit to what we have going on in Biloxi, and to the many of you in this room who work in this industry.

This morning, we’re going to speak to a number of issues. One that I’m keenly interested in – and I hope that the Gaming Commission looks upon favorably – is the proposed South Beach resort and casino in west Biloxi.

This project can jump start development and growth in west Biloxi, and we’ll have Margaritaville doing the same thing in east Biloxi.

Frankly, that’s the missing part of the puzzle in Biloxi – the growth of other visitor amenities – and I think we’ll see that pick up with more hotel rooms, restaurants, family attractions, etc.

We cannot control what’s going to happen with gas prices, or the tax structure in Las Vegas or the possibility of more Native American gaming in Florida.

But we can control what WE do, and the decisions WE make.

Biloxi is the ENGINE, and the FUEL is the 800-foot onshore gaming legislation passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. I say let’s take it out for a test drive.

One other issue that I would like to speak to is the failure of the legislature to pass the tax incentive for tourism projects.

This was and IS an important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, the gaming industry should get some of the benefits afforded other industries in Mississippi. I wish everyone would realize that casino is not a four-letter word.

This legislation would have gone a long way to promote TOURISM, and I hope it gets another look soon.

That should be enough fodder for this panel.

Thank all of you for being here.