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Grand Casinos capture lion’s share of Gulf Coast market

There are a dozen casinos on the Coast, but it might come as a surprise that two casinos owned by the same company capture the lion’s share of the market. Of the eight casinos owned by public companies, the two Grand Casinos on the Coast have the largest share together accounting for 49% of the market.

In 2000 Grand Casino Biloxi had about 28% of the market share, and Grand Casino Gulfport 21%. By contrast, Beau Rivage, the casino many expected to take over the Coast market after it opened in 1999, had a market share less than either of the Grands at 16.3%.

The Isle of Capri had 9.7% of the market. Casino Magic Bay St. Louis is next at 8.8%, Casino Magic Biloxi had 7.6%; Boomtown Biloxi, 5.1% and the President in Biloxi, 3.5%. The other four Coast casinos are privately held and don’t share revenue totals.

What makes the Grand so popular? They came into the market early and strong, developed a loyal following, and have a plethora of non-gaming amenities.

“I think it is a great credit to them that they provide such a diverse entertainment product,” said Andy Bourland, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Association. “They have quality hotels, and entertainment experiences that are competitive with anything to be found in major metropolitan areas.”

With the Las Vegas model of gaming, 50% of revenues come from non-gaming attractions. Bourland said the Grand Casinos, whose parent company is Park Place Entertainment, are clearly a leader in providing quality non-gaming experiences.

“When you combine the gaming and non-gaming experiences that Park Place and most of the other companies are moving towards, clearly the Grand Casinos are a leader in that respect,” Bourland said. “You’ve got a good selection of restaurants. Park Place, among others, has tried to provide very fine experiences for customers who gamble and those that don’t. They have range of restaurants, quality golf, spas, and theaters.”

Bourland also admires that the company has employed some very unique marketing strategies that have helped them maintain or grow their share of the market. It doesn’t hurt being owned by the largest gaming company in the world, and hence benefiting from the parent company’s marketing expertise.

“We’re really on the cutting edge of marketing efforts down here,” said Duncan McKenzie, president and general manager of Grand Casino Biloxi. “We’ve got a very strong marketing team. We were the first one to do mass drawings and the big gift of the month promotions, and we do the high end of the business better than any one else down here.”

McKenzie came to the Grand Casino after the merger that brought in Hilton Hotels in addition to the Grand Casinos. McKenzie, who was previously with Hilton, said after the merger there weren’t any sweeping changes at the Grand Casinos because the properties were performing so well.

“I’m a fan of the way the Grand came in here and developed this market,” McKenzie said. “I think they had a lot of vision. We have such a great brand down here regionally.”

The first two items on the Grand’s mission statement are: 1. Delight the guest. 2. Develop a superior team of associates.

“If you get those things right, the rest happens,” McKenzie said. “One of the marks of our success is the fact that when the Beau Rivage opened, we only lost a couple hundred employees. That’s because it is such a great place to work.”

He said the two locations on the Coast also help build brand recognition. But the casinos don’t compete against each other much for customers. The Grand Biloxi draws customers from the east, and the Grand Gulfport from the west. Both properties have hotels, health spas, pool areas, some of the most popular nightclubs on the Coast and a big diversity in restaurant offerings.

The Biloxi Grand has a large theater and books top name entertainment. And later in the evening after the entertainers have finished, the theater is turned into a large nightclub called Backstage. Backstage dancers create activity before people get on the dance floor. Music includes a mixture of DJs and popular local dance bands. Backstage seats 800 to 1,000 people.

The Grand Gulfport’s Voodoo Lounge is smaller, seating 300-400 people, and has attracted a big following with the voodoo theme that includes black lights and special weekend promotions like the free mood necklaces that glow in the dark. Colors represent certain messages like “Buy me a drink” or “Looking to upgrade.” The club also has live bank karaoke on Thursday nights.

Another attraction that patrons in Biloxi appreciate is ample covered parking. A new parking garage on the south side of U.S. 90 was recently completed at the Biloxi Grand.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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