Mayor addresses recovery issues, progress for investors

Mayor A.J. Holloway told a group of investors today that Biloxi has a promising future, as evidenced by the national attention on the Biloxi gaming industry.

The casino resort industry, he said, generated $95 million in gross gaming revenue in September, the largest amount in the history of legalized gaming in Biloxi. And on the condominium front, the city has 26 projects under varying levels of review, representing 10,000 proposed condo units, triple the number being discussed before Hurricane Katrina.

“The casino resort industry is the engine moving the train, but it’s not the whole story,” Holloway told the nearly 300 real-estate investors from across the country gathered at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

In the past year, Holloway pointed out, the city has issued 630 permits for new-home construction – more than triple in a typical year – for a value of $80 million, along with 312 permits for new commercial construction. At the same time, nearly 4,000 permits were issued for storm repairs to existing homes and businesses,.

But casino talk – particularly the Harrah’s proposal in Biloxi — dominated the Q&A session of the mayor’s 20-minute session this morning.

“You hear reports about Harrah’s putting a hold on plans here in Biloxi,” Holloway said. “You cannot tell me that a company that has vowed to spend a billion dollars in this community, and was buying land earlier this week, is going to sit on plans for too long.

“I think what we’re seeing here is a small bump in the road.

“Harrah’s is talking about spending a billion dollars, and you don’t make an investment of that magnitude without seriously considering all of the angles. And you have a couple of angles at play here.”

Holloway said talk of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws considering a casino resort on the Gulf Coast and reports of a possible buyout of Harrah’s are two factors..

“As all of you know, the regulations governing Native American gaming are far different than those of regular operators. Some argue that they don’t have much regulation. I’m an old jock, and I’ve always thought that it’s best that we all have a level playing field – that everyone is treated the same. That’s how I feel about that. I’m also glad to see that the governor has the position that he does.

“The second angle is the published reports about two companies considering a buyout of Harrah’s, which, of course, is the world’s largest gaming operation.

“All of this gets back to what I said a few minutes ago.

“All of these people – and I include all of you in that number – realize the exciting opportunities here in Biloxi. We can talk about what if’s and should haves and could haves all day, but the numbers don’t lie. We were making history here in Biloxi before the storm, and we’re going to make history again.”

More on city web site

To read the complete text of the mayor’s speech, click here.