Gaming experts, lawmakers and industry executives attended a special event at the IP Casino Resort Spa in Biloxi on Wednesday to mark the 25th anniversary of legalized casino gambling in Mississippi.

According to a report from local television broadcaster WLOX, the occasion kicked off a year-long celebration of the success of casinos in the southern state and saw attendees discuss the situation of the current market, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

Only a handful of states had casinos when then-local firm Isle Of Capri Casinos opened its first facility in Harrison County in August of 1992. However, some 40 states now feature casinos with Geoff Freeman, President and Chief Executive for the American Gaming Association, stating that the industry currently supports around 1.7 million jobs nationwide.

“Development of the Gulf Coast casino market during the past 25 years has generated $6.5 billion in state tax revenues directed from gaming to the state; it’s a great story to tell,” Freeman told WLOX. “The market is diversifying and developing new products. We have 25 years of history here [and] 40,000 jobs right now. I’m very proud of what they’ve done on the Gulf Coast. It’s a model for other communities.”

There are now over 30 casinos in Mississippi including twelve spread along an 82-mile corridor that borders the Gulf Of Mexico.

“We came in 1992 and started creating jobs and spin-off jobs; not just directly within casinos, jobs with suppliers of goods and services,” Duncan McKenzie from the IP Casino Resort Spa, which is owned by Boyd Gaming Corporation, told the television broadcaster. “I think all those things have snowballed into us being as important to the state as we are today.”

The report explained that Mississippi casinos today account for $53 billion in revenues and have realized that they must continue to invest and expand beyond gaming alone in order to be successful.

“I think those types of things are what we need to continue to look at,” Jonathan Jones from Harrah’s Gulf Coast, which is operated by Caesars Entertainment Corporation, told WLOX. “Better non-gaming amenities with the existing operators.”