In the early years of dockside gaming on the Mississippi Gulf Coast a multitude of construction cranes were in place while hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in casinos and hotels. It has now been four years since the last casino, the Beau Rivage, opened on Coast.
If all the projects that have been announced went forward at the same time, the skyline would once again be dotted with numerous construction cranes. But that is a big “if.”
The project considered most likely to go forward in the near future is the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Biloxi just east of Beau Rivage in Biloxi. The $225-million project would include 50,000 square feet of gambling space, a 306-room hotel, four restaurants, a parking garage, a pool and a Hard Rock Live nightclub for national and local performers.
The project is being developed by partners Greg Giuffria, a former rock star who is a native of Pascagoula now living in Las Vegas, Florida developer David Ross and Roy Anderson III with Roy Anderson Construction.
Other casino projects proposed on the Coast include the Rock-N-Roll casino on Back Bay Biloxi, the Royal D’Iberville Casino in D’Iberville just west of the I-110 bridge, a casino on Caillevet St. in Biloxi proposed by Sen. Tommy Gollott and other investors, a project next to Diamondhead in Hancock County, and a casino at the site of the former Bayou Caddy in Waveland. The Coast currently has 12 casinos.
While there may be some room for growth, no one believes all six casino projects will be built. John Ferruci, vice president and general manager, Casino Magic Biloxi and president of Gulf Coast Gaming Association, said some additional growth could be good for the market.
“I get the impression that the gaming industry on the Gulf Coast is getting its second wind,” Ferruci said. “The first years of growth were really remarkable. Then, of course, we leveled off for a period of time. Now major companies are looking to the Gulf Coast as a very viable long-term destination resort. They see there is probably some room for growth. I don’t believe there is room for three new casinos in Biloxi at same time. I think any casino that comes to the Coast needs to be in the position to grow the Coast market. I have the feeling Hard Rock fits that profile. They are nationally and internationally recognized. There will be people who come to the Coast because of Hard Rock that wouldn’t come here before. That is the kind of synergy we all need in relationship to the future growth of the Coast.”
Ferruci said the other smaller casinos planned would dilute the existing market, unless they have a hook that provides some other service or amenity that doesn’t exist on the Coast.
“I don’t think you’ll see all of these casinos currently being discussed come to conclusion,” Ferruci said. “And that is why no one is really overly concerned with it at this point.”
Andy Bourland, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Association, said one of the strengths behind the success of the Mississippi gaming industry is that it is based on the free market enterprise system similar to Nevada and New Jersey that doesn’t limit the number of casino permits in an area.
Bourland said there is synergy by having numbers of casinos co-located in the same area.
“At the same time, I’m sure that those developers have looked at the economic conditions of the past several years and the very competitive nature of all the markets in Mississippi,” he said. “So there are some interesting challenges, I think, that all of them will face. But one of the strengths of Mississippi is the fact that the free market system allows competitors to come in and develop new and hopefully complementary facilities. It is going to be interesting. I believe down the road there is room for growth. It is just a matter of finding the right time, the right nich