Pioneers of state's casino industry discuss past, present - - The News for South Mississippi

Pioneers of state's casino industry discuss past, present

(Photo source: WLOX file) (Photo source: WLOX file)

Officials say 2017 is a big year for the state's casino industry. Mississippi is set to celebrate 25 years of gaming.

Some of the pioneers of the Mississippi industry, movers and shakers who were part of bringing dockside gaming to the state, got together at the annual Southern Gaming Summit to reflect.

Tim Hinkley, former President of Isle of Capri, remembered August first 1992 when the Isle was the first casino to open on the Coast. 

"At 10 o'clock that morning, I was asked what do you think. I said, 'The market says about 125 million.' After seeing the lines and the business that night, that more than doubled. That was my instant recollection. We might have something here," Hinkley said.   

State Senator Tommy Gollott from Biloxi was the driving force behind convincing the legislature to legalize dockside gaming. 

"It was really a hard pitch. But, there were so many of my friends there that wanted to help us out and I told them how much money it would bring into the state treasury," said Senator Gollott.   

At the time, small riverboats welcomed gamblers on board. A quarter of a century later, huge casino resorts dot the shoreline. The industry today generates $3 billion in revenue, exceeding anyone's expectations.

Lyle Berman participated in the pioneers of gaming round table. He brought Grand Casino to Gulfport in 1993, and is impressed with where the industry is today and thinks operators need to innovate and evolve.

"They have to add more amenities. They have to give people a reason to come. More reasons to come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said to Berman. 

Twenty-five years after a bold experiment, Mississippi has benefited tremendously from gaming.

"We put all of the combinations together with a good gaming act and good businesses working hard to make for a long lasting success. I'm looking forward to the next 25 years," said Hinkley. 

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