Casino executives look for promising 2011

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Coast casino executives are looking for a more prosperous year in 2011.

The year now coming to a close included the negative impacts of a struggling national economy and the BP oil spill. But the business predictions about the new year are upbeat.

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is traditionally a busy one for the casino industry, and this week is no exception.

"Everybody is off work, visiting family. They have a little extra Christmas cash in their pockets. Typically a pretty good week for the casino world," said Chris Kern, Hard Rock Casino Biloxi's Marketing Director.

Kern said predictions for the new year are generally positive. 2010 will be remembered as a year of challenges.

"We were kind of hoping the economic recession would lift a little bit, and we were hopeful coming into the summer. Then, of course, we had the oil spill in the Gulf, which obviously kept a lot of tourists away, particularly during those critical summer months," Kern explained.

"We're here catering to the locals that live here and work here," said Boomtown Casino Marketing Director Sunita Sailor.

That local reputation Boomtown Casino caters to may help explain why that property didn't experience a serious drop in business during the oil spill.

"Well, we don't have a hotel. And so I think most of our customers come locally and were staying informed about what was going on. And we were just hoping for the best," said Sailor.

As the New Year begins, the coast casino with the biggest expansions plans is the Palace. A construction project, already well underway, will expand the gaming area, improve the hotel facilities and add restaurant and retail space.

"The casino industry has historically been a little resilient when it comes to recessions. It took a little while, but it certainly got to us. And we certainly felt the pinch this year," said Kern.

But the promise of a new year brings predictions of an ongoing turnaround.

"I would definitely say that we're optimistic and upbeat going into 2011. We hope the residual effects of getting those tourists back to the coast after the oil spill are going to continue in 2011," said the Hard Rock executive.

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