Coast Casinos Celebrate Their Ninth Anniversary

Dale Schultz watched dice fly over a craps table. "Mark it," the dealer said. "Point five. Even odds behind the line."

Schultz spoke a language that few people on the coast understood before 1992. That year, Schultz took a job with Mississippi's first casino as a shuttle bus driver. Now he's inside the Isle of Capri at a craps table.

"The job is fun," Schultz said. "A lot of good people here to work with. It's not real hard. And they pay real good."

The Isle still has 64 of its original employees. Linda Harris has been a bartender since day one.

"It's hard to believe we've been here nine years," Harris said. "But it's wonderful. It's a wonderful job."

William Cannan remembers the gamble he took in 1992. He followed the Isle's original riverboats from Iowa down to Biloxi. "It was a career move when we came down. So we felt we would be here," Cannan said. "We didn't know it would be this big. But we thought we'd be here."

The coast casino industry has grown up quite a bit since that hot day in 1992 when gamblers lined up outside what were then two Isle of Capri riverboats. They waited for hours, hoping to be the first people to tempt lady luck in Mississippi.

According to Duncan McKenzie of the Gulf Coast Gaming Association, "We're a long ways away from the Diamond and Emerald Lady that opened up August 1st." In nine years, the coast has made its mark in the casino industry. "Mississippi is the number three emerging market, gaming market in the United States," said McKenzie. "And who would have guessed it in 1992?"

Certainly not the 64 people who took a gamble on casino jobs when nobody knew what to expect.

Here's what Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway recently wrote about his city's casino industry. "We are currently enjoying a renaissance that began in August, 1992, when casino gaming sparked a new spirit of pride and prosperity among our citizens."

Right now, 12 casinos are open along the coast. Four others once did business down here. But because of financial struggles, they had to close.