Holloway provides industry status report for gaming audience

Casino resorts in Biloxi have acquired more than 125 acres in Biloxi in the 20 months since Hurricane Katrina, Mayor A.J. Holloway told a Southern Gaming Summit audience this morning, and the city will continue to see extraordinary growth without compromising quality of life.

Holloway, who was invited to speak as part of a panel discussion this morning, also noted that Biloxi’s casino market is continuing a trend of record-setting revenue that began in September, 13 months after the storm.

In his brief review of major projects, the mayor said:

— Harrah’s, which operates the Grand Biloxi, has acquired about 80 acres in east Biloxi since the storm, the largest footprint of any casino resort in the area, and will announce its plans for east Biloxi next week.

— The Hard Rock – “which had one customer, Katrina, the first time it tried to open” — will open on 7-7-07, and Treasure Bay is racing to have its new-and-improved casino resort open around that time.

— Bacaran Bay Casino Resort and Condominiums will be in the center of the city’s new Caillavet Street revitalization corridor.

— IP Casino Resort Spa, which has continually added amenities since reopening four months after the storm, has acquired more than 25 acres surrounding its Back Bay site.

— A casino resort project next to Boomtown on Back Bay, called the Bayview Casino Resort, is moving forward with plans for a resort that will include 55,000 square feet in gaming space and a 500-room hotel.

— Boomtown has acquired 23 acres of land near its site and in the next month will start working on master planning for its future growth.

— The Palace this fall will complete a $10 million, 20,000-square-foot addition to increase gaming capacity, and is working on a preliminary master plan that would include 140,000 square feet of elevated space and contemplates the addition of a 400-room hotel tower.

— The Isle of Capri is in the final stages of a $180 million-dollar expansion that will bring its gaming capacity to more than 100,000 square feet, re-open its convention and entertainment space, as well as add other amenities.

Holloway noted that the Biloxi casino industry has set gross gaming revenue records six of the last seven months, with two of the months setting all-time records.

Said the mayor, “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.”

Holloway, who lobbied the legislature for limited on-shore gaming, reminded the audience that he predicted some months after the storm that Biloxi could see as many as 18 to 22 casinos within 10 years, and some have said the number of Coast hotel rooms could increase from its pre-Katrina level of 20,000 to 30,000, and the number of industry employees could double to 30,000.

“I think all of those numbers are well within reach, and I think we can do it without compromising our quality of life,” the mayor said.

“In fact, I point to those years before the storm, when we were successfully dealing with quality of life issues — tings like providing nationally-recognized public schools, safe neighborhoods, award-winning work in historic preservation, quality recreation for children and adults, affordable housing initiatives, citywide economic development, and good streets and drainage. And we were doing it all while cutting the city property tax rate in half.

“This storm,” the mayor observed, “was the worst the nation had ever seen, and we’re meeting it with an unprecedented response. We’re reviving that renaissance we were enjoying before August 29, 2005.”

More online

—To read complete text of Mayor Holloway’s remarks, click here.

—To monthly gross-gaming revenue totals for Biloxi casinos, click here.

—To see links to individual casino resorts and proposed resorts in Biloxi along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as compiled by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, click here.