By Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport
The message coming out of the Southern Gaming Summit was loud and clear: to be competitive, the Coast must have more amenities and attractions to expand its appeal to visitors.
Only one-third of visitors to Las Vegas now go there to gamble, according to Gary Loveman, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. Most guests, he said, are looking for experiences.
South Mississippi may be about to accommodate Mr. Loveman in a couple of ways.
This week, the Biloxi City Council may finally move the vision of a minor league baseball park on the Coast closer to becoming a reality. Such a facility would not only serve as an attraction for sports fans, but could easily be employed to attract concertgoers as well.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced the state’s purchase of a large slice of Cat Island. The acquisition builds on the state’s earlier purchase of almost all of Deer Island. Hosemann said he is working on making these public assets more accessible to both residents and visitors. His planning begins with Deer Island, where visitors could be ferried across the narrow waters separating it from Biloxi. At the island, a barge could be positioned with facilities for visitors. That would maintain the island’s natural condition. And a barge could be moved out of harm’s way in the event of a storm.
Both these enhancements happen to be connected to Biloxi, where Loveman’s company could also be of considerable assistance. In 2007, Caesars Entertainment stopped construction of a casino on the beach. The shell of that project remains an eyesore on Beach Boulevard. “I think over time, the facility will be taken down,” Loveman told reporters after his presentation at the gaming summit. We hope “over time” turns out to be soon.
In addition to adding to our amenities, we need to make the ones we have as attractive as possible. That certainly includes the scenery along the beach.