Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast casino’s January revenue of $100.5 million, which is a $13 million increase over the $87.3 million posted for the same period last year, means a 15 percent increase for the region’s casinos.

The opening of The Scarlet Pearl casino in D’Iberville in December 2015 increased the number of casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to 12. Rather than cannibalize business from the existing casinos, the addition of the Pearl helped grow the market and turn out strong performances helping the year’s gross revenue from casinos make it to the $1.14 billion mark. That just beats 2009’s total revenue of $1.11 billion, improving on the $1.08 billion won in 2014 by 6 percent on the year, according to the Sun Herald.

The Scarlet Pearl was the first casino built to Mississippi’s new requirements of a minimum of 300 hotel rooms and the first casino for D’Iberville. The miniature golf course, Lava Links, with its exploding volcano, is another amenity at the Scarlet Pearl that is expected to draw new visitors to the Coast.

A report (pdf) from the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association (MGHA) this week shows the casino market in the Gulf Coast is on a roll after a 1.4 percent increase ending in 2014 and a 6 percent increase in 2015, the first since 2007.

Michael Bruffey, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association and editor of the report said, “And that’s in the face of visitors declining,” according to the Associated Press. Just short of pre-Hurricane Katrina totals, 817 new hotel rooms were added at Gulf Coast casinos in 2015. South Mississippi casinos were visited much less in 2015 than in 2014, and less than before the storm, according to the report. The report said, 2015 saw a decline of 1 million visitors from 2014. Visits have declined from 20.7 million in 2004 to 14.6 million in 2015. Bruffey said that while the number of visitors may have declined, visitors are staying longer and spending more, which can be the only answer to the increase in casino revenue. Traditionally, more people are attracted to the Coast by the opening of a new casino and the opening of the Scarlet Pearl last year proved that to be the case. The visitor count from October through December was 3.7 million, an increase from 2014’s 3.4 million, but still well below the pre-Katrina number of 5.4 million for 2004’s fourth quarter.

In addition to the 2015 opening of the Scarlet Pearl, a new hotel at the Silver Slipper Casino made its debut as well as the minor league baseball stadium MGM Park. A $60 million renovation to the Beach Tower at the Island View Casino was completed, and an RV park was opened by Boomtown Biloxi. Several casinos in the region have invested millions in upgrading their casinos, guest rooms or restaurants, per the report.

It was also noted in the report that lawmakers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama are discussing expanding their casino markets. And with 17 percent of Coast casinos visitors from Alabama, and 6 percent from Georgia, and 15 percent from Florida, local casinos would feel the effects.

The report said, “Outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, you will not find a cluster of high-end gaming resorts like you do in Mississippi.” Bruffey said, when operators of Coast casinos reinvest in resort amenities, it is less likely there will be adverse effects from small competing casinos opening where the customers originate and between South Mississippi. He said, they’ve done just that. “To remain competitive and to separate our region as a unique, high-quality resort area, he said they have done just that. Since 2011 over $1.5 billion has been invested by operators on the Gulf Coast, said Bruffey.

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