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Mississippi Miracle

AGA highlights strong community partnerships in Biloxi

Heading into its 25th year, gaming in Mississippi is a proven partner for the state, especially on the Gulf Coast. In the latest of our Get to Know Gaming events that bring together the gaming community in markets across the country, AGA organized a robust roundtable event in Biloxi.

As the Sun Herald reported, “the tour brought more than 100 people to the presentation at IP Casino Resort… the largest attendance yet,” and included leaders from the Gulf Coast business, political, nonprofit and education communities, as well as property leaders from Boyd Gaming’s IP Casino Resort Spa, MGM Resorts International’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s Gulf Coast, and Penn National Gaming’s Boomtown Casino.

Our message: it’s not enough to rest on the accomplishments of the past quarter-century—which include contributing nearly $6.5 billion in gaming taxes alone to state and local government coffers and driving the recovery of the region after Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. Let’s figure out how to grow this industry even more.

One opportunity for growth could be through sports betting.

“It could add another level to this platform of revenue and bring even more income to the state and its economy,” said Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association.

Conservatively, Americans bet $150 billion illegally on sports each year, meaning Mississippi could benefit from tax revenue were the federal government to remove the current ban.

What was absolutely clear is that Mississippi is home to progressive policymakers who understand how gaming works. State Rep. Richard Bennett, chairman of the state legislature’s gaming committee, praised the industry. “I don’t know where the Coast would be without gaming—we’ve done it right here,” he said, adding, “We do not need to have a threat of a tax every year,” as such instability would deter reinvestment.

Others in the community voiced their strong support for the industry.

“Gaming is a consistent economic driver for people in a region that has endured natural disaster and turmoil,” said Ashley Edwards, president, Gulf Coast Business Council. “The progress and influence we continue to realize as ‘One Coast’ is due in large part to the deep commitment of our Gulf Coast casinos to promoting opportunity and collaboration.”

Each panelist noted the many jobs created by the industry, the small businesses and local vendors that work with casinos and the strong community partnerships that have formed over the years, including with the United Way of South Mississippi, which has received nearly $1 million in donations from the industry.   

On employment, Harrah’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Jonathan Jones noted that the industry has provided lifelong jobs, adding that 170 of his employees have been employed 20 years or longer. “We just hired a fourth-generation table games employee,” he said.

Like many gaming regions, the Gulf Coast has a great story to tell, and through the AGA’s Get to Know Gaming campaign, we will continue to educate the community, policymakers and the public about gaming’s role as a community partner.

Follow Geoff Freeman on Twitter at @GeoffFreemanAGA.

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