The Mississippi Gaming Commission’s recent approval of the stripped-down Margaritaville casino project should not be viewed as carte blanche for more smaller scale gaming enterprises along the Gulf Coast, according to speakers at the Southern Gaming Summit conference and trade show, which took place last week at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi, Miss.
first announced by Caesars Entertainment in 2007, the $700 million Jimmy
Buffett-inspired Margaritaville Casino & Resort was to include a
100,000-square-foot casino, 800-room hotel, 250,000 square feet of retail
space, meeting rooms, full service spa and a massive pool complex on 46 acres along
Biloxi’s casino row. The Margaritaville
Casino & Restaurant plan eventually approved by the MGC in April calls for
$48 million facility with a 68,000-square-foot casino, restaurants, pubs,
retail space, an events center and an 18-slip marina to be developed by the
Brosig Group on Biloxi’s Back Bay. The property is scheduled to open in the
spring of 2012.
Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, lauded the
Margaritaville group for taking the steps necessary to secure financing and
develop a smaller version of the original project despite the current economic
environment. That said, Gregory added that the goal of the MGC is to promote
larger-scale projects that will bring more amenities and hotel development to
a fine line,” Gregory told the audience at Southern Gaming Summit. “Do we want
to turn the Gulf Coast into a tier one destination or become a mom and pop
casino market that does not bring in tourism? We need people willing to develop
and invest… not those looking to put 25 slots at a restaurant.”
sentiments were echoed by other speakers at Southern Gaming Summit. Jeff
Cooper, treasurer for Biloxi-based IP Casino Resort & Spa, told attendees
that the only way Gulf Coast casinos were going to meet and exceed
pre-recession visitation and revenue numbers was through the development of
projects that increase room inventory and non-gaming amenities, expanded air
service into the region, and a continuance of favorable gaming tax rates.
Mayor A.J. Holloway also spoke on the need for new gaming developments to
create attractions beyond the casino. “Recovery has been steady and we know
we’ll be OK…but is that all we really want to be?” he asked SGS attendees. “We
are still less than we were before the storm and will not move forward until we
repair the tourism infrastructure, the family attractions and non-gaming
amenities lost to Katrina. Some say hotel room development is the key… but we
have 17 percent less room than before Katrina and our occupancy rate is still
only 62 percent. We need heads to put in the beds.”
Mayor George Schloegel reiterated Holloway’s call for more tourism development.
“To fully mature the Gulf Coast gaming industry, we need more private/public
partnerships involving amenity and family attraction development… we need more
entertainment outside of the casinos,” he said.
The Southern Gaming Summit is an annual trade
show and conference that takes place each May in Biloxi and is presented by the
Mississippi Casino Operators Association and BNP Media, the parent company of Casino Journal. This year’s event had
over 100 exhibitors and attracted 3,000 attendees. For more information on the
event, visit www.sgsummit.com.
Gulf Coast still seeks large-scale casino resort development
May 10, 2011