(This article appeared in the July 1997 On Parade, published
by the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Vistitors Bureau.)
New Orleans Casinos
by Ray Knight
Beating the Odds
casinos are holding their own against Gulf Coast rivals, despite a persistent
buzz about what some call a "game drain" from Louisiana to Mississippi.
"What many people don't realize is that when you average the revenues per
casino, New Orleans casinos are beating the pants off the Mississippi Gulf
Coast casinos," says Joe Giardina, Director of Marketing at Bally's in
Comparison of monthly gaming revenue reports tends to support his claim.
In March, for example, the four casinos in New Orleans grossed $29.6 million
for an average of $7.4 million each. The 11 Gulf Coast casinos took in
$65.8 million, an average of $6.0 million per casino. New Orleans
averaged 23% more per casino than the Gulf Coast. "Soon we
will only have three casinos in the market, and the average revenues should
be even higher," says Giardina, referring to the impending departure of
the Hilton Flamingo riverboat to Shreveport.
The performance of the New Orleans casinos is even more remarkable when
the disadvantages of limited space and the "cruise handicap" of the riverboats
are considered. The riverboats don't have the amenity magnets --
hotels, golf courses, high-end restaurants, children's facilities, etc.
-- that help draw players to the Gulf Coast casinos. Gaming capacity on
the boats is considerably less than that of the dockside casinos in Mississippi.
The requirement for the riverboats to leave the docks is another big penalty
to overcome. "When we cruise, about half our people run off the boat,"
To help surmount these obstacles, Giardina launched an aggressive marketing
campaign to generate bus tour traffic to New Orleans and Bally's. Bally's
group sales staff has been successful in luring an average 140 bus tours
a month. They come from South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,
Texas, and Mexico. "We even have some coming from Gulfport and Biloxi,"
A big part of the appeal, he believes, is New Orleans itself. "They're
coming here not just strictly for the gaming, but they're coming to enjoy
the treasures of New Orleans." He views the bus tour business as a growing
niche adding incremental revenues to the New Orleans tourism economy. "This
is generating new tourist business for New Orleans," he says, adding that
Bally's is developing alliances with local hotels as part of the tour strategy.
In spite of some bad press and long odds, Giardina maintains that the
New Orleans gaming industry is hale and hearty. "When you look at the actual
health of the gaming industry, per casino, the casinos here are doing quite