City, County Leaders Hoping New Casino Hotel Will Boost Economy

You might call it a bee hive of activity at Casino Magic's new hotel site. Work on the building is about 15 percent complete.

"Everything is going great despite all the rain," Casino Magic Public Affairs Director Christian Reese said. "Construction on the new hotel is still right on track."

Reese says when the hotel is finished, it will be a first class facility that will make the Hancock County proud.

"It will be a 300 room hotel. We're going to have over 11,000 square feet of convention and meeting space and all the other amenities you'd expect, such as a spa retail space as well as a three course meal restaurant, a pool, those type things."

The director of the county's tourism bureau says those amenities are important. But to her, the hotel's most important feature is its 11,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

"In the next two years, we'll be able to bring millions of dollars of conventions and meeting business to Hancock County and to the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Tourism Bureau Director Beth Carriere said.

For city leaders the new hotel will mean an additional $300,000 $350,000 a year in gaming tax revenue.

"In addition to that, probably another $20,000 in ad valorum taxes and some additional sales tax revenues," City Clerk Bobby Parker said.

That's money city leaders say they can really use.

"We're in need of building our surplus back up because over the past few years with the drainage projects and so forth, it been depleted considerably," Parker said.

Last year the city received about $2.5 million in taxes from the casino. Parker says the additional $300,000 will be used to finish up drainage projects and give the city a cash reserve for emergencies.

By December, the shell for the 14 story hotel will be completed. It's scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend 2002 and employ 200 to 300 people.

By Al Showers