Comments to the World Gaming Congress & Expo, Las Vegas (Nev.) Convention Center, September 1996.
Biloxi is one of America’s oldest and youngest cities. Oldest because we were first settled in 1699 and youngest because this city is
undergoing a rebirth that began shortly after the first dockside casino opened in 1992. Today, we are home to eight Las-Vegas-style casinos, with two more mega-resorts under construction now. Both will
be home to hotels that are almost 30 stories each.
Today is the most exciting time in our 297-year history. Visitors and residents can see it all around them. There’s a new spirit of pride and
prosperity among our people.
What has gaming meant to Biloxi municipal services?
Plenty. The way the gaming laws are set up, money is funneled to our school system, to public safety and,
finally, to the city’s general fund.
For city residents, I suppose that the most obvious impact has been in two areas — streets and drainage, and public safety. We have been able to do millions
of dollars of rebuilding and repair on city streets that had been suffering from years of neglect because we simply didn’t have the money. More properties are on the tax rolls now. Our sales tax revenue
has increased, which means the whole community is prospering. We’ve also been able to catch up on back bills and improve our credit rating.
In our Police Department, we have gone from having a
two dozen or so police cars to buying over 100 in the past three years. We’ve essentially doubled the size of the department and every man has a new car to drive. Our officers are highly trained and well
paid. We’re giving them all of the equipment they need to do their jobs. The result? Crime is decreasing in Biloxi. It’s at the levels it was before casino gaming arrived — which means that we’re at the
level of four years ago. Find another city in America that can make that claim.
Same for the Fire Department. We’ve purchased new fire trucks in the past three years, and two more this past year,
including a 105-foot aerial truck — the largest the city has ever owned and capable of fighting fires in a 10-story building.
And of course we now have our share of 10-story buildings.
Biloxi is the pinnacle of this new gaming fever that was sweeping the nation — and we are rightly so the center of attention. Gaming alone has grossed $1.5 billion in Biloxi since it arrived in August
92. Why so successful? Because we have always been known as a tourist town. We have a rich history. We’re on a peninsula. We have 26 miles of sand beaches, the deep sea fishing, boating, the great
seafood restaurants, championship golf courses, friendly people and now another thing to add to the mix — casinos. Gaming may not be right for every community, but it has been great for Biloxi.
Because of all of our unique features, Biloxi has been able to attract the heavy hitters like Mirage and Golden Nugget and Imperial Palace, to compliment the strong lineup we already have — Grand,
Casino Magic, the Isle of Capri, Boomtown, Lady Luck and so forth.
How will other gaming jurisdictions affect Biloxi? We’re not too worried right now. With the problems that gaming has
encountered in some cities, local leaders are finding it harder and harder to bring in casinos. And now, the federal government may be exploring the possibility of a national tax on casinos.
new jurisdictions face those hurdles and that uncertainty, the construction continues here in Biloxi.
With the construction going on now on Beau Rivage, which is the Golden Nugget and Mirage
casino in Biloxi, and on Imperial Palace, we see great things happening in the near future.
We had about 3,000 hotel rooms in 1993, and in a matter of m onths — NOT years — we’ll be up to at
least 7,000, maybe 10,000 hotel rooms — BRAND-NEW rooms. We will be an established destination resort. These casinos will be marketing their resorts and BILOXI to the entire nation. And all of this will
be coming together at a perfect time — just before our Tricentennial Celebration in 1999.