GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In Mississippi, the gaming industry was booming in 2007. Then came the recession, and the wheels stopped spinning, but bad times have given way to a feeling of renewed optimism for gaming commissioners. One of them is Wally Carter.
"We feel comfortable at this point now at the end of 2014 that things have stabilized here on the Coast. We have actually seen an uptick here on the Coast, so we're very positive in the state of gaming right now," Carter said.
These days, the industry isn't just about slots and table games. It's much more than that, according to commission executive director Allen Godfrey.
"Additional slot machines do not bring people here. It's going to be additional amenities. I think you've seen a lot of the amenities and re-investment on the Gulf Coast, and I think that's why you're going to see visitor counts go up," Godfrey explained.
As far as the state of the industry in 2014, these are key facts and figures. In 1992, only three states offered gaming, including Mississippi. In 2014, 42 states offered some kind of gaming. Godfrey said that has an impact.
"Well, I think it's been a lot to blame for the erosion. Probably the worst thing that has hurt the Coast is all the regional competition. It's probably felt more in North Mississippi, but it's definitely hurt the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Godfrey.
While Tunica and the river counties continue to struggle, there is plenty of new investment along the Coast, with new hotels and expansions that bode well for the future. That's how Carter feels.
"The biggest impact is going to be felt here on the Coast. Just because of its location to the prime markets that we're attracting. People from Florida, Alabama and Louisiana," said Carter.
Those people are the key to a profitable 2015.
Also Thursday, gaming commission chairman John Hairston, of Gulfport, announced that he is stepping down from the post at the end of the month.