Casinos hope for an explosion of holiday business

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "Anemic" is one of the more colorful words gaming executives are using to describe business inside their casinos.  So on this Fourth of July weekend, industry insiders are hoping the action at slot machines is as explosive as the fireworks displays outside their properties.

Gaming revenues have been down for nine consecutive months, because people just aren't spending money the way they did before the market crashed.  That makes holiday weekends even more significant to the casino industry's bean counters.

D.J. Redmon says the towering hotel on Biloxi's back bay will be busy this weekend.  According to the IP concierge, "We're going to be 100% full."

That's because visitors like Thaddeus Morrison are spending at least part of their Fourth of July holiday in south Mississippi.  "I just love the water, the seafood.  It can't get no better," thought the Atlanta tourist.

Getting customers into south Mississippi casino resorts isn't the problem.  Head counts on most gaming floors are at least equal to last year.  But the money wagered at tables and at slot machines is down.  And that's caused more than a few headaches for the tourism industry.

Jon Lucas is the IP general manager.  "We're seeing a lot less spending by people," he admitted at the ribbon cutting for his resort's new poker room.  "I think you just have to ride it out.  And ultimately when the economy starts turning around, people will reach into their pockets and spend a little bit more."

IP remains unphased by the economic downturn.  The new state-of-the-art poker room is on the resort's first floor.  It's an example of how IP is investing it its property to cater to whatever gamblers are out there.  Jim Sterlingis the poker room's manager.  "This is the nicest poker room I've ever worked in," Sterling said.  "It's just going to drive business through the roof."

That's what Lucas is betting on.  "I mean you can see this property has a lot of traffic in it," he said.  "We're hanging in and we'll ride it out.  And we'll be fine.  Whether it's gaming or non-gaming, we're confident that we'll be okay in this market."

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.