Can Mississippi gaming climb back near the top?

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Before Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi was the third largest gaming market in the country, behind Vegas and Atlantic City. But today, the state is number four, or as low as number seven depending on which statistics you look at. Folks at the Southern Gaming Summit have many opinions on how to reverse that trend.

Michael Broderick is a casino marketing expert from Wisconsin who said the scars left behind by Katrina are still having an impact.

"There's a rebuilding process going on," Broderick said.  "You still see it along the coast in the architecture and infrastructure, and once the overall infrastructure gets back to where it was before, I think the customers are going to be coming back."

Larry Gregory is Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Even with the coast suffering from Katrina, the recession, and the Gulf oil spill, he believes there's still another reason why Mississippi gaming is no longer a $2 billion industry: Increased competition.

"You've got states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that are coming in and taking over these other gaming jurisdictions," Gregory said. "They are taking the patron counts and money counts away from states that have been well established."

A manmade disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last summer may actually help Mississippi regain its stature as the number three gaming market in the country.

"I think this BP money will allow us to do a really strong marketing campaign to tell everybody about Mississippi as a destination," said Jon Lucas, General Manager of the IP Casino. "It's certainly a big hurdle to jump over."

But it's a hurdle that most casino executives on the coast feel we can leap over in time.

The Southern Gaming Summit runs through Thursday. More than 2,000 delegates from several states are attending.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.