December 21, 2005
A casino construction
boom is quietly gathering on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to
take advantage of the state's post-Katrina relaxation of siting
rules that had restricted coastal casinos to floating locations.
to see Las Vegas style hotels," says Beverly Martin,
executive director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association.
She says many new mega structures should emerge within the
next five years, with some existing properties also planning
to add 20,000 to 90,000 sq ft of retail space. Even though
most owners have not announced plans, Martin says they are
already in contact with architects and engineers as they prepare
to move ashore.
Haley Barbour signed a law October 31 allowing casinos on
the Gulf of Mexico to be built up to 800 ft inland. The move
is expected to impact the coast from Biloxi to Gulfport. The
mayor of Biloxi has predicted that city could have 15 to 20
casinos in the next three to five years, says spokesman Vincent
Creel. The city, which already has nine casinos, expects to
see an investment in that period that will far exceed the
$5 billion spent over the previous 13 years, he says.
The move should
also spark increased tourism as developers build more luxurious,
family-friendly facil-ities to replace the casino barges and
adjoined hotels, says Creel.
One proposed resort coming together is owned by Landry's
Restaurants, Houston, which also owns the Golden Nugget in
Las Vegas. The company is planning to build a $500-million
resort in Biloxi, with retail and meeting space, restaurants
and amusement rides, says Martin. It is acquiring land from
the many residents who lost homes or who would rather sell
and relocate than rebuild, Martin says. "Several of the
homeowners have pooled their resources to sell a land block,"
"Ultimately all of the casinos will move on land for
competitive reasons," says Rick Quinn, CEO of Copa Casino
in Gulfport. As casinos move on land, competition will limit
the construction of "minor players," says Quinn.
The Copa Casino is primed to begin building an onshore casino
reported to be valued at "several hundred million dollars,"
says Quinn. He says it is awaiting approval of the Mississippi
State Port, which owns the land. He says the new Copa will
be in operation within 18 months of port approval, which he
expects to come in the next three months.
The Silver Slipper, Bay St. Louis, a total loss after Katrina,
also expects a fast turnaround. The casino was in the process
of moving to Lakeshore, Miss., from Biloxi before Katrina.
"We took all of the drawings and scrapped them to be
a 100% land-based site," says John Ferrucci, general
manager and COO of the Silver Slipper.
He says construction will begin Dec. 15 on the casino and
parking structure. They are scheduled to be completed quickly,
in September 2006. "The key is to get the casino open
and cash flowing," says Ferrucci.
The Silver Slipper expects to complete its hotel by September
2007 and attached condominiums by September 2008, he says.
Boggs and Poole Contracting Group, Bossier City, La., is general
contractor for the casino.