Two Coast Mayors Talk About Impact Of Gaming Industry On The Coast

Almost everyday, you'll see Dudley Vercher and his wife circling the Donal Snyder Community Center's walking track. Vercher said he loves the walk, because it's in such "a beautiful facility."

In an adjacent room, Jane Danielson and her colored pencil class drew some beautiful pictures. Danielson is another frequent Snyder Center visitor.

"I think it's great," she said. "I sometimes swim here. I bring my grandson here to play basketball in the afternoon."

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway credits casinos for generating the money to build the Snyder Center, and for financially saving his city.

"The tremendous turnaround that we've had in Biloxi is one of the greatest success stories in the country," the mayor said.

Holloway and Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs were asked to share their stories with the Mississippi Gaming Commission . They talked about the area's construction projects, and the quality of life improvements since 1992.

"If it sounds like we've come a long way in Biloxi," Holloway said, "we have."

Mayor Combs said it was because of casinos that businesses like Prime Outlets moved to Gulfport.

"We're after bringing people in to enjoy all phases of the gulf coast," Combs told the gaming commission. "And a lot of you sitting in this room have given us the opportunity to do that."

Retired Keesler General Paul Harvey has a unique view of Mississippi's casino industry.

"I don't think any of us really anticipated the growth and how robust this industry was going to be," Harvey said.

Between 1993 and 1998, Harvey ran the state gaming commission. During that time, 23 casinos opened in Mississippi. Six were on the coast. As he walked past one of the casinos he opened, Harvey said, "I don't know of any industry that could have come to Mississippi and did an economic infusion as fast as this industry."

Dudley Vercher said that infusion helped his city. "Brought jobs and people moving into the area," the Biloxi resident said. "A lot of improvements."

Both mayors said the improvements can be seen just about anywhere a Gulfport or Biloxi resident looks.

Despite the economic news, not everybody can say casinos have been good for Mississippi. According to the Mississippi Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling, more than 3,500 people have picked up the phone this year, and called a toll free number for help. The callers were looking for ways to control their gambling addictions, before the addiction destroyed their lives. If you know somebody with a gambling problem, call 1-888-777-9696.