Casino experts weigh in on impact of Margaritaville closing

What does the future hold for the coast casino industry?
Gaming floor at The Palace Casino in Biloxi. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Gaming floor at The Palace Casino in Biloxi. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville in Biloxi closed on September 15, 2014. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville in Biloxi closed on September 15, 2014. (Image Source: WLOX News)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There are now eight casinos in Biloxi instead of nine, with the recent closing of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. While it may have come as no shock to some, The Palace Casino General Manager, Keith Crosby, believes Margaritaville started on a bad foot.

"Since the Margaritaville project was conceived, there's been a lot of additional regional competition as well as the economy has been depressed. So I think all those things right off the bat, before they put the shovel in the ground, were working against them," said Crosby.

Crosby doesn't think Margaritaville's closing is a sign of what's to come for Biloxi casinos, but he is calling it a heads up.

"Right now, we're seeing a decrease in jobs, revenue is down, and the tax revenue is also down. It's something we need to be sensitive to, and conscious of as the industry matures," said Crosby.

When Margaritaville first opened in 2012, the Mississippi Department of Revenue's report shows that gaming revenue was nearly $204,000,000, but the most recent report shows revenue down by almost $18,600,000.

"The honeymoon is never the whole wedding, and to expect that first couple of years to last forever was unrealistic then as it is now," said Crosby.

Since Margaritaville opened, John Montella, who is the owner and instructor at Coast Dealing Academy, says Margaritaville was always the first casino where he tried to get his students hired.

"My favorite casino was Margaritaville, as far as placing students. I've had a lot of calls and had a lot of students there," said Montella.

According to Mississippi Gaming Commission data, when Margaritaville first opened, they had 960 employees. Recent data shows upon closing, they had a little over 300 employees, but Montella doesn't think those who are unemployed will have a hard time getting hired by other coast casinos.

"We have enough casinos around here and enough business thrives here that they can fill these gaps, and take these people in without missing much of a beat," said Montella.

Montella's gaming academy students don't seem to be worried by the closure either.

"Some of these casinos have been around for a while, and they don't seem to be having those problems, so I'm not scared," said Warren Benson.

The newest casino in Harrison County is currently under construction. The Scarlet Pearl in D'Iberville is supposed to open in December of 2015.

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