Biloxi gaming industry marks 25 years today

Biloxi will unveil a new $35.5 million state-of-the-art junior high school this Friday, which seems fitting for the same week that the city marks the 25th anniversary of the casino gaming industry, which has helped pay for new schools and fueled so many quality-of-life improvements over the years.

It was on Aug. 1, 1992, 25 years ago today, when thousands stood for hours in the sweltering sun for a chance to enter two dockside paddlewheelers opened by the Isle of Capri at Point Cadet.

The huge, patient crowds heralded the potential of an industry that local economic developers originally said could support three paddlewheelers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and employ about 3,000 people.

Instead, after a few years, casino operators embraced the idea that their vessels didn’t need to be paddlewheelers since they wouldn’t be leaving the dock. That’s when huge barges, twice the size of football fields began operating, with state-mandated hotels and other on-land amenities. Casino show rooms attracted world-renowned entertainers.

Over the first quarter-century, Biloxi has hosted well over a dozen casinos, beginning that first month with the Isle, the President at the Broadwater and the Biloxi Belle. Over the years, the number of visitors to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast skyrocketed to nearly 10 million a year at one point, up from a million a year pre-casinos. The casino industry also spurred more hotel rooms, more restaurants, more airline service and more visitor amenities, which helped attract support businesses as well.

And for the city, it represented a new revenue stream that funded hundreds of millions in new public facilities (a new public safety center and three new fire stations to house more police officers and firefighters; new recreation centers and ball fields) and enhanced city services while cutting the tax rate in half. For a community that had not built a new school since 1960, gaming taxes helped fund the construction of a $35 million state of the art high school and three new elementary schools, while keeping school taxes the lowest on the Coast.

“Nobody imagined the real impact and the impact that was to come over the next 25 years,” Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said today. “It’s bigger than anyone ever imagined, and by the same token, I believe that the next 25 years are going to be even bigger than we can imagine.

“The fact is, those of us who were born and raised here always knew that our Biloxi was a special place, but this industry and the growth have enhanced by tenfold the Biloxi brand.”


Biloxi by the numbers: Millions and billions

Some numbers to consider from the first 25 years of casino gaming in Biloxi, from Aug. 1, 1992 to June 2017:

$18,500,859,590.33 — total gross gaming revenue.

$2,252,879,322.79 — total gaming taxes paid.

$1,478,979,807.23 — state’s share of taxes paid.

$435,123,866.50 — city’s share of taxes paid.

$118,405,501.51 — Biloxi Public Schools’ share of taxes paid.

$168,537,809.70 — Harrison County’s share of taxes paid.

$59,202,750.75 — Harrison County school’s share of taxed paid.


The names: A trip down memory lane

Biloxi has eight casinos operating today, but there have been 16 brands in the city over the 25 years.

The names, in no particular order:

Isle of Capri, President, Biloxi Belle, Casino Magic, Grand, Palace, Lady Luck, Gold Shore, Boomtown, Imperial Palace, Beau Rivage, Treasure Bay, Hard Rock, Harrah’s, Margaritaville and Golden Nugget.
See more about gaming revenue
2012: Where we were at the 20th anniversary
1997: Where we were at five years