Coast gambling sees post-Katrina boom

Mississippi's coastal casino industry is rebounding strongly from Hurricane Katrina, state Gaming Commission director Larry Gregory told lawmakers Thursday.

And, he said a few more months of healthy gambling revenues should convince other big-name companies to move forward with their development plans in the area.

"Mississippi, after having the worst disaster the state has ever had, is still the third largest gaming jurisdiction in the country," Gregory told members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

Mississippi's casino industry ranks behind Nevada's and New Jersey's.

Before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, there were 12 casinos operating and one scheduled to open along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Now, less than 13 months after the storm, nine casinos are operating and one more is scheduled to open in October or November.

Before the storm, about 17,000 people worked in the coastal casinos. Now, there are about 14,000.

Before the storm, the coast casinos collected about $1.2 billion in annual revenues and generated about $144 million in taxes.

Gregory said he expects the coast casinos to hit $1 billion in revenues this year and to generate about $120 million in taxes.