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Biloxi casinos thriving again

27 May 2008

BILOXI, Mississippi – As reported by the Louisiana Times-Picayune: "Hurricane Katrina swept George Lawrence's neighborhood away, leaving nothing but a few stacks of bricks where rows of neat cottages once stood.

"Constructed on floating barges, Biloxi's casinos were seriously damaged, in some cases obliterated, by the storm. But just four months later, Isle of Capri was open for business. Buoyed by a post-Katrina change in state law that allows gambling establishments up to 800 feet inland, other casinos soon followed suit with bigger, glitzier versions of themselves.

"...Lawrence's working-class east Biloxi neighborhood is still an immense grassy plain broken only by a few pastel Katrina cottages.

"…But the gaming industry, which in less than two decades has transformed a sleepy beach town into the Las Vegas of the South, is thriving. Biloxi casinos had a record-breaking year in 2007, with more than $1 billion in revenue compared with $900 million in 2004. Even with high gas prices contributing to a slight downturn last month, casino receipts are as healthy as they were before the storm.

"…Since Katrina, the contrast between that noisy, frenetic world and the town outside has become more stark. Rebuilt casinos offer ever more amenities while storm-ravaged east Biloxi remains in tatters.

"…Many local residents are philosophical about living in the shadow of the casinos. They do not mind having their streets and local eateries largely to themselves while benefiting from the $22 million the gaming industry paid to the city treasury last year, as well as more than 10,000 jobs generated…"

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