In the money:
The Mississippi Gulf Coast’s
IP Casino Resort Spa
In 2007, gross gaming
revenues from Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos exceeded pre-storm
levels for the first time since Hurricane Katrina tore through the
region in August 2005. In 2004, the last full year of business
unaffected by the storm, area casinos drew $1.23 billion; in 2005,
which included three zero-dollar, post-hurricane months, revenues
plunged to $886 million; in 2006, the total inched up to $910
million; and in 2007, gaming revenues experienced a 43 percent
jump, to $1.3 billion.
Larry Gregory, executive director of
the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said that “the success of 2007
is attributed to the Gulf Coast rebounding after Katrina.” The
recovery has not, however, extended to include meetings business.
“While the casinos have recovered their level of gross gaming
revenue,” Gregory said, “I know they are still working hard to
recover their lost convention space and other amenities.”
Room inventory also continues to lag.
Pre-storm, the area had 17,000 hotel rooms; now it has 11,000.
Yet there are signs of renewal in these
realms, too. According to a spokesperson for the Mississippi Gulf
Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, roughly 400,000 square feet
of new meeting space should come online in the next few years.
About 16 percent of that will come from the $1 billion, 800-room
Margaritaville Casino & Resort, currently under construction
and set to open in 2010.
Atlantic City did not fare as well in
2007: The city suffered its first drop in gaming revenue -- by 5.7
percent, to $4.92 billion -- in nearly three decades. Jeffrey
Vasser, executive director of the Atlantic City Convention &
Visitors Authority, attributes this in large part to the opening of
slot machine parlors in nearby eastern Pennsylvania.
But this could be good news for groups,
as Atlantic City is forced to compete by adding amenities and
attractions -- “basically following the same model as Vegas,”
“Historically, it was easy for Atlantic
City casinos to focus on their bread and butter,” said Dan Nita,
senior vice president and general manager of Caesars Atlantic City,
one of three area properties that did enjoy gaming growth in 2007.
“Now that has diversified, and you see convention groups that like
to bring their spouses and have something to do, all of which we
are trying to accommodate.”