GULF COAST, Miss. (WLOX) – The summer season is now in the review mirror, and it was a challenging season for the Coast tourism industry. But those challenges, created by the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, didn’t necessarily translate into problems for the casino business.
When the water along the Mississippi Coast closed in early July, the effort to keep people coming to the Coast intensified. General Manager of the Palace Casino and Resort Keith Crosby said he heard the concerns from visitors.
“I heard a story about a guest asking if the water in the pool was out of the Gulf, so it was just a reassurance that we’ve had an issue. But we’re weathering it, and it’s not as severe as it sounds,” Crosby said.
Based on the numbers from the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the casino industry weathered the storm well. Over the summer months, (May through August) gaming revenue grew by more than 2% compared to last summer.
“Our occupancy, our ADR’s and all of those measurables that you can look at year over the year improved,” Crosby said.
Even though overall revenue for Coast casinos was up for the summer months, August did show a decline from around $108 million in revenue in 2018 to just under $99 million in August of this year. If there was a dip in customers, Crosby said business didn’t stay down long.
“To our surprise, August and September have actually been very good. Our hotel occupancy was up 5% year over year in September and just about the same thing in the month prior to that,” he explained.
While overall the tourism industry is hoping for a strong rebound in 2020, Crosby believes gaming brings a unique group of visitors, and the casinos provide a variety of entertainment options.
“I think it’s segmentation,” Crosby said. “The folks who are visiting the casinos and staying in the hotels may not necessarily be the same segment that would come exclusively for the beach or for the water.”
According to the Mississippi Gaming Commission in May, June, July and August of 2019 casinos took in more than $435 million. While for the same four-month time period in 2018, it was a little over $425 million.