Biloxi: Casinos on the Rebound

This week marks six months since Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast. On Mississippi's beaches, gambling - considered the economic backbone for the area, was dealt a devastating blow. But the Mississippi casinos are beginning to make a comeback.

Pre-Katrina, the gaming industry meant half a million dollars a day in tax revenue for the state of Mississippi. Without the casinos, the state and Biloxi lost its economic spark.

But now, three casinos in Biloxi - the Palace, the Imperial Palace, and the Isle of Capris are back up and running.

Just six months ago, crews were demolishing what was left of storm ravaged casinos, but now things are booming once again.

"Business has been so incredible," says Rich Westhall of the Isle of Capris casino. "We had to add more slot machines right away.  With casinos coming back open, it's provided a lot of jobs for a lot of people."

At the Isle of Capris, they've remodeled everything and put 1,400 people along the coast back to work.

The three casinos that have reopened raked in nearly $64 million in January alone.

Westhall says the "money is rolling in." He attributes the gains to simple supply and demand. "(We have)tremendous demand and very little supply...The supply we do have is being used at its maximum capacity."

The crowd at the Isle of Capris is an interesting mix of locals and out-of-towners trying their luck.

"It means everything in the world to the people who live here. It means everything to the people in Alabama and Georgia - the whole South," says Randy Jones from Valley, Alabama.

Jones is a contractor helping rebuild the coast. He knows his loss here at the Isle of Capris is Mississippi's gain.

"I've helped put this wing back together here...Between me and my wife, we've done a little to help here," says the contractor.

It will be some time before all the casinos are back up and running. All along the coast there is still destruction everywhere, but the glow of the lights brings a glimmer of hope.

"We're slowly building back as a resort destination," a smiling Westhall says.

Randy Jones says people who were not impacted by Hurricane Katrina should count their blessings, "When you go back to your house. You should be very thankful for what you see and what you've got to put your hands on. You don't have to have a whole lot to be thankful."

The Mississippi Legislature approved on shore gaming. That allowed casinos to build back fast. In January, the three casinos made more than half of what nine casinos made in January of last year.