Mississippi coast casinos face hot competition from other states

BILOXI — It's been a tough week for the Coast casino industry, hit with news that 2009 gross casino revenue fell to 2000 levels and construction cranes are coming down at the Margaritaville Casino site, while a blimp flew over Biloxi advertising an Alabama casino.

A meeting to discuss promoting Mississippi casinos against the newly opened electronic bingo parlor outside Dothan, and other Alabama class 2 casinos was held Friday at Mary Mahoney's in Biloxi.

"They're definitely going after our casino and tourism market," said Beverly Martin, director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association and a member of the Harrison County Tourism Association. The meeting was called by former state senator Gloria Williamson, now a lobbyist for the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, to consider cooperative advertising with the state, visitors bureaus and other casinos.

Currently 15 percent of the gamblers at Mississippi casinos come from Alabama and 25 percent from Louisiana. At least one candidate in the November Alabama governor's race, agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks, favors legalizing casinos.

"We've got increased competition out there," Martin said.

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