What Are the Odds? (Part 4)
In the face of a crumbling gaming market, Atlantic City is now working to reinvent itself, hoping to reel customers back in that were swiped away by the oversaturation of gaming markets from coast to coast. Thirty nine states now have some type of gaming. Atlantic City’s customer base has shrunk as people can stay closer to home to gamble. South Mississippi’s gaming industry has also felt the pinch.
Once the third largest gaming market around, Mississippi fell to sixth place in 2012 as casino revenue in Louisiana, Indiana, and Pennsylvania climbed. Tom Balance, President of Borgata Casino, says, "Yeah, I think Biloxi is very similar to Atlantic City in a lot of ways. You need to compete in Biloxi to get people to come a long way to your market and you need to do that with good solid product, product that is different than people can get closer to home."
The Gulf Coast seems to have taken a page out of the Atlantic City history book, and are taking action now before it’s too late. South Mississippi leaders have ramped up the efforts to bring more non-gaming attractions to the area. John Hairston, Chairman of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, says, "I think we’ll see a return to family attractions. We have a few, but we don’t have enough. I think we’ll see mini golf like we’ve never had before on the Coast. Family attractions to come, music is exploding, every city it seems has a new venue or a concert."
The biggest hurdle for Coast casinos and Atlantic City is filling hotel rooms in the winter and during the week. Rick Mazer, Regional President of Caesars Entertainment, says, "What we have to do is create those great restaurant experiences, great entertainment experiences, great event experiences, and provide amenities that make you want to come here and not just stay for the day, but stay overnight."
Coast casinos will benefit from the increased tourism starting next year from the new baseball team in Biloxi, another draw to increase visitors, attracting meetings and conventions. Hairston also says, "At long last, I really believe we’re gonna’ see that convention center headquarter hotel and I think we’ll see hotel rooms built in walking distance to the convention center to maximize an investment we already made."
Coast casinos have also taken the hint by reinvesting in their properties. Just this year, the Hard Rock opened a new hotel tower, Harrah’s Gulf Coast underwent renovations and opened a new concert venue, and the Golden Nugget brought new life to the old Isle of Capri. Balance closes, “You’ve gotta’ have properties that are invested in, that operate in a more resort fashion, and it’s gonna’ be a smaller market there too, but one that the IPs and the Beau Rivages are gonna’ be able to thrive in."
This year, Gulf Coast gaming revenues are beginning to increase for the first time since the recession, showing that we’re on the right track… for now.