Coast casinos establishing nongaming amenities

Published 9:58 pm Saturday, May 12, 2007

The state’s Gulf Coast casinos are developing a destination resort market independent of slots and tables, a strategy similar to Las Vegas which used nongaming activities to propel its gaming industry to its No. 1 spot, according to analysts at the 14th annual Southern Gaming Summit this week.

The summit returned to Biloxi Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region. The largest gaming summit outside Las Vegas, the event drew more than 2,000 attendees.

Casinos on the Las Vegas strip receive 55 percent of their revenue from non-gaming activities, said William S. Newby, managing director for gaming and leisure in global investment banking for Banc of America Securities. About 20 years ago, those amenities would have accounted for 10 percent of revenue, he said.

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The coast’s casinos earned $2.6 billion from gaming in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Coast revenues could experience a similar boost from nongaming activities if the Vegas model could be replicated.

Beau Rivage Casino Resort spokeswoman Mary Crachiola said gaming has progressed in recent years with visitors wanting to visit a spa, play a round of golf and enjoy fine dining.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, noted some of the celebrity chefs who have partnered with Coast casinos, including Todd English who owns Olives at Beau Rivage, Emerile Lagasse who is opening a restaurant in mid-June at Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, and Luke Palladino who has a restaurant named Bragozzo at Isle of Capri in Biloxi.

“Years ago, people just wanted to gamble,” Gregory said. “Now they want fine dining at a restaurant with a chef they’ve seen on the Food Network.”

According to an American Gaming Association survey, casinos customers spend about 82 percent of their money away from the tables at fine-dining restaurants.

Amenities need to extend outside the casinos, said Peter Macy, senior vice president for investment banking for Wells Fargo.

“To me, the biggest hole I see is something to do outside the casinos,” he said of the Gulf Coast market.

Coast market casinos will have to determine over time which amenities its customers want.

The $600 million Bacaran Bay Casino Resort, expected to open in 2009 in Biloxi, is looking to grab dog-lovers by offering a doggy hotel, said Marlin Torguson, chairman and chief executive officer of Torguson Gaming Group Inc.