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Miss. coast casino employment reported at pre-Katrina levels

Employment at casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is back at pre-Hurricane Katrina levels, says a state gaming regulator.

Mississippi Gaming Commission member John Hairston said Wednesday there are now more than 13,000 people working at coastal casinos.

Hairston, speaking to a Leadership Gulf Coast meeting in Biloxi, said the rebound in jobs from summer to autumn has been swift.

“By the end of this June, the number was 7,067, roughly half,” Hairston said. “That number a month ago was 13,519. The reason is because some of the largest properties opened this past quarter.”

The opening of a new casino, the Silver Slipper, on Nov. 9, should put the number past 14,000, he said.

“These numbers do not include all the construction going on or the downstream jobs that are out there and the economic impact,” he said. “We’ve had $1.5 billion worth of capital just in construction. I would bet that if you get some real numbers down, the impact of gaming to this market greatly exceeds pre-Katrina levels because of all the construction going on.”

Hairston, one of three members of the Gaming Commission, said casino growth does have its limits, even if there is no indication now of what that is.

“Obviously, the market will sustain only so much,” he said.

Hairston said new marinas, golf courses and attractions such as an oceanarium are needed to grow the tourism industry. Traditional cornerstones of the economy, such as military bases and the defense industry, are also critical to recovery, he said.