- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - January revenue of $100.5 million for Mississippi’s 12 Gulf Coast casinos is $13 million higher than the $87.3 million posted in January of last year. That is a 15 percent increase.

In a report on the latest figures in The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/24hYoTu ), a local hospitality industry spokesman says the Scarlet Pearl, a new casino in D’Iberville, helped grow the market - instead of taking revenue from other casinos.

It was the first time January revenue for the south Mississippi market surpassed $100 million since 2008.

“It’s a huge increase,” said Michael Bruffey, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.

Scarlet Pearl is D’Iberville’s first casino, and the first built to the state’s new requirements of 300 or more hotel rooms and an amenity that will draw new visitors to the Coast. Lava Links, a miniature golf course with an exploding volcano, was that amenity at Scarlet Pearl.

A report released this week by the MGHA shows the Coast casino market is on a roll after ending 2014 with a 1.4 percent increase and 2015 with a 6 percent increase, the first since 2007.

“And that’s in the face of visitors declining,” said Bruffey, who edited the report.

Although 817 new hotel rooms were added at Coast casinos last year - just 449 short of pre-Hurricane Katrina totals - far fewer visitors are coming to South Mississippi casinos than before the storm. About 1 million fewer people visited in 2015 than in 2014, the report said. The number of visits has decreased from 20.7 million in 2004 to 14.6 million in 2015.

Traditionally, the opening of a new casino has attracted more people to the Coast and that happened again with the opening of Scarlet Pearl in December. From October through December, the visitor count was 3.7 million, an increase from 3.4 million in 2014 but well below the pre-Katrina number of 5.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2004.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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