Biloxi, Mississippi, is no newbie in terms of the casino industry, but that hasn’t stopped the city from throwing its hat into the ring of locations for new casinos in the coming years. Earlier this week, Biloxi took a major step toward the commencement of construction on its ninth casino when the city council approved Mayor Andrew ‘FoFo’ Gilich’s plan for connecting the last length of the road around East Biloxi. According to a member of the council, ‘the road is the key’ to the construction and operation of the new casino.
The planned Biloxi Pointe Casino, which is set to be constructed off Eighth Street in East Biloxi will be part of a massive $260 million resort featuring a collection of marketable amenities – including a large convention and entertainment center, a hotel, shops, a restaurant and a bowling alley. Before any work on the road can be started, the casino will be required to close on the funds for the project, but Jeff Hartmann, founder and chief executive officer of the proposed resort, insists that this stipulation won’t be an issue.
In total, the last part of the Biloxi loop is estimated to cost $22 million, but only $7 million will come from the casino developers. Additionally, approximately $5 million will come from the Mississippi Development Authority while the remaining $9 million will come from the City of Biloxi. Gerald Blessey, an attorney for the city, stated that Biloxi has already started looking for sources for the funding, which could include tax increment financing for the area. However, the casino will be exempt from this increment, as it will be granted a 7-year tax abatement in exchange for the initial payment.
Completing the loop is expected to provide major benefits beyond the casino industry, as well. Chris Ferrara, the casino’s developer, highlighted potential economic development that could be spurred by increased traffic resulting from the new road.
Despite the approval by the city’s officials, some in Biloxi are less than optimistic about the prospects of a new casino. Keith Crosby, general manager of Biloxi’s Palace Casino Resort, was among the vocal opposition to the construction plan.
“We’re saturated,” he said. “At first, the uniqueness of gaming was all you needed to have, but the hayride that we were on is over.”
As of 2010, Biloxi recorded a population of just over 44,000, but its casino presence makes it a travel destination for gamblers throughout the Southeast. Currently, the city features eight casinos – including the Golden Nugget Biloxi, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Treasure Bay Casino and Palace Casino Resort. Despite a heavy impact from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, most of the city’s resorts successfully reopened in the years that followed, demonstrating the resiliency of the Biloxi casino market.
In 2015, gross gambling revenues from the coastal counties have been up and down, peaking at $107.3 million in March after bottoming at just $87.2 million in January. In August, the most recent month that’s been reported by the Mississippi Gaming Commission, Biloxi’s gross gambling revenue was measured at $97.1 million. This relatively strong performance should bode well for the Biloxi Pointe Casino moving forward.