Brad's Newsroom Blog: Wake up Biloxi, there's casino competition in Alabama

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

If you've ever taken I-65 from Mobile to Montgomery, you know the two-and-a-half hour drive can seem like forever. Well now, 45 minutes outside of Mobile, there's something to see.

It appears out of nowhere, almost like an oasis in the desert. Miles and miles of grassy fields are interrupted by a 17 story, 236 room resort built by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The Wind Creek Casino and Hotel offers its guests 1,500 gaming devices. The machines are BINGO style -- in other words, they aren't supposed to be like the slots you can play in south Mississippi. However, it's really hard to tell the difference between a BINGO game in Atmore, Alabama, and a slot machine in Biloxi, Mississippi.

And that's the point of this blog.

The Wind Creek slogan is, "There's something in the wind." Could that something be competition for the gulf coast?

Wind Creek obviously believes the answer is yes.

You see, at the front of its buffet is a sign that compares Wind Creek's seafood buffet prices to four casinos in Biloxi (Wind Creek is cheaper).

Another sign near the front door advertises the new cooking studio that will open this summer. If you love the kitchen, Wind Creek will give you and your friends a chance to learn how to cook like a professional chef. Sounds like a pretty nice getaway.

The question is, is Wind Creek competition for south Mississippi's casinos? I asked a couple of Biloxi's casino insiders that question.

One told me, "Geographically, they kind of are."

The other said, "We all know it's there. We know it's a nice facility."

Are they worried about it? Not really.

"Any property put within a 150 mile radius is competition. But I don't think they have the capacity," this casino boss said.

Remember, Wind Creek only has 1,500 games. And it's not allowed to offer table games. No blackjack. No roulette. No craps.

However, its opening comes at a time of concern for Mississippi casinos. Gaming revenues fell seven percentage points in January. It was the fifth consecutive month that south Mississippi's casinos made less money than they did the year before.

"It's tough. Absolutely tough," my casino insider told me.

But it may be turning around. Both casino execs said February's numbers seemed encouraging. So, while they'll watch how Wind Creek evolves over the next few months, they won't fixate on it.