Casinos Impact Ocean Springs

Ten years of casino gambling has changed the face of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

And besides Biloxi, nowhere is the impact of the industry more evident than Ocean Springs.

Casinos boosted home building, attracted new businesses and created growing traffic troubles.

"It has been a tremendous impact. You know, we're within sight. They can see Ocean Springs from here. If we can just get them in their cars, if they're in cars or find a way for them to get over here. It's been great," said Gaye Aultman with the Ocean Springs chamber of commerce.

Ocean Springs is just moments away from casino row. Casino visitors have discovered the charm of the downtown, while new residents are finding this community a great place to settle down.

"This has always been a bedroom community for all the communities around. We find it's still so. And of course all the home builders are building here and it's been delightful to meet all the people that are coming in," explained Aultman.

More customers are coming into Salmagundi gift shop. The owner says out of town visitors enjoy the unique shopping experience and ambiance of downtown Ocean Springs.

Owner, Jeannie Stevenson, says casinos have been good for downtown shopping.

"This is one of the few places where you can park your car and walk. So, they love the idea. We have great restaurants. We have great shops. A lot to offer. And I think we're pretty scenic out there," said Stevenson.

Former city alderman Larry Cosper owns a downtown art gallery. He says the biggest impact of casino gaming on Ocean Springs is quite obvious.

"The traffic. No question about it. No question about it, the traffic. Just drive on Highway 90 and you can see the impact of the traffic."

Cosper says Ocean Springs has managed to accommodate the growth and maintain its small town charm. But that's a difficult balance.

"In progressive communities it's very important. It's just that simple. You have got to get a hold of growth and manage it. If you don't, it will manage you," said Cosper.

One example about handling growth is the ongoing debate over impact fees. The city is considering charging developers a fee to help offset the cost of providing city services to new subdivisions.

There's a public hearing on that controversial topic Monday night at Ocean Springs city hall.