Coast Casino Industry Is "Healthy"

When asked what the state of gaming in south Mississippi is, Silver Slipper C.E.O. Paul Alanis said, "It's healthy." And Alanis needs it to stay that way. "I think it's important to the longer term success of a facility like this," he said.

Alanis just built Mississippi's first casino that was on land from the ground up. In less than two years, he'll add a hotel to his Hancock County property.

"So I look forward to continuing to turn this beautiful little corner of Hancock County into a destination resort at some point in the future," he said.

Hancock County's second casino isn't the only coast property taking advantage of new land based gaming rules. Treasure Bay is in the middle of a $30 million expansion. Refurbished hotel rooms open in the spring. Another 100 slot machines will be available to guests on Friday. Susan Varnes has run the Treasure Bay property since the hurricane.

"It's been a great opportunity for us to modernize and change our image," she said.

When gamblers visit Treasure Bay this weekend, they'll see that old hotel lobby is gone. It's been replaced by bright new colors, and a fresh new look.

"You can look around, we're doing it well," Varnes said.

Spring is also when Island View will unveil the second phase of its shoreside resort. And a few months after that, Hard Rock expects to rock Biloxi. By then, 11 casinos will be open. And more than 15,000 people will have jobs.

So where does the industry go from there?

Several developers have plans to enter the market. Bacaran Bay is moving ahead with a project proposed for the north end of Caillavet Street in Biloxi. There's also plenty of interest in turning part of the old Broadwater site into a casino.l And next month, a proposal for a D'Iberville casino west of I-110 is supposed to go before the gaming commission.

Then there are the other possibilities. Will the Isle of Capri open a second casino in west Harrison County? Will it expand its Point Cadet resort? What about Harrah's and the expansion plans it just tabled for Grand Biloxi? And will Donald Trump's company actually finalize plans for a Diamondhead casino? Those are all questions that should be answered during the second wave of the casino industry's rebirth in south Mississippi.

"I think that the more the focus is on Biloxi, and gaming as a whole, it just means more business for all of us," said Varnes.

September was huge business month for coast casinos. Silver Slipper hopes to capitalize on that momentum with its grand opening.

"I think we've reached a point, we're going to add to that, and help those numbers grow even greater," said Alanis.