Gamblers Talk About Mississippi's 10 Year Old Casino Industry

A day at the pool. A night at the casino. That's how the Barberas have enjoyed South Mississippi for nearly a decade. "This is really a friendly casino area," Vinnie Barbera said. "And you have that southern hospitality that goes with it."

The Florida family vacations in South Mississippi three to four times a year. They've been guests at Grand Casino ever since it opened. "As far as the people, nothing has changed," Jo Barbera said. "The hospitality hasn't changed. There has been more people here from other areas that we're pleased to see, because Mississippi really, really deserves this."

Studies indicate that as many as 19 million visitors now come to South Mississippi. From a financial standpoint, the slot machines and table games at coast casinos have made about $8.5 billion in 10 years.

Don Ulan is a Moss Point man who said he's a regular at Harrison County's casinos. He said the casinos have been a good tonic for the area's economy. "It's the best thing to happen down here," he said.

When Ulan was asked why he spends three to four days a week at a casino, he smiled and said, "I find it cheaper than going to a psychiatrist."

Harvey Gregiore visits coast casinos all the time. "Everyday just about," he said. "I can't stay in the house. I gotta go someplace."

But the Slidell man never plays a casino game. He leaves that to his wife. "I'm a chauffeur and a gopher," Mr. Gregiore said. He had just cashed in a bucket full of quarters his wife won at a slot machine. "That's the gopher. And I put the money right here. She doesn't get it until we get home."

On this visit, Mrs. Gregiore hit a $75 jackpot. She said she rarely misses a chance to tempt lady luck. "I just like it, that's all," Mrs. Gregiore said. "I love to gamble."