Will 2013 be a better year for the coast gaming industry? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Will 2013 be a better year for the coast gaming industry?

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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Once again this year at coast casinos, there are empty parking spaces, and money is not flowing as freely as it once did.

The proof is in the numbers. In 2007, casino revenue was a record $1.20 billion. In 2011, that was down to $1.01 billion. This year is down again to $1.0 billion, a drop of $200 million in five years.

Gaming consultant Cliff Kirkland isn't surprised.  

"Well, it certainly reflects the economic turndown we've seen since 2008 and I think that's when we saw the numbers start dropping," Kirkland explained. "We haven't recovered from that and on top of that we had the BP oil spill." 

He said the coast is still an attractive area for visitors. 

"People are still coming here, people are staying in the hotels, and visiting the casinos. They're just not spending as much money there, not staying as long," Kirkland said. 

There are signs of recovery. Hard Rock is building a new hotel tower. The Isle will see a name change to the Golden Nugget and $120 million worth of improvements.  Chris Latil is the general manager. 

"We're very excited about this market. We think that 2013 is going to be a big year for this market. We're excited about what's going on around the coast and around Biloxi," Latil said.  

Oddly enough, what happens in Washington D.C. over the next week could greatly impact the gaming industry, not only on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but across the nation as well. If this nation falls off the fiscal cliff, the average American taxpayer will  have $2500 less to spend each year.

David Staehling is the city of Biloxi's Director of Administration.  

"There's no question it could have an impact," Staehling warned. "Again, gaming revenues are a function of discretionary income and anytime you have that kind of a contraction in any gaming market, it's going to have an impact on the revenues of those cities that are dependent on it." 

In addition to the sales and future planned improvements at three coast casinos last year, the Palace Casino spent $50 million on upgrades two years ago.

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