Business booming for
Gulf Coast casinos

Apr 4, 2006 5:24 AM

Booming business at the three casinos still operating on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has spurred expansion projects to help the properties deal with the demand.

The smallest of the properties, the Palace Casino, plans to add 300 more slots in a 6,100 square feet expansion as a harbinger of a major land-based development that will include a hotel with 300 to 400 rooms and a 100,000-plus square feet of space for gambling, restaurants and entertainment.

"We’ve got a clear vision of what we’re doing," said Keith Crosby, Palace Casino general manager.

"We want to develop a billboard that’s consistent with our current architecture, yet at the same time continue to present the property in a boutique status, recognizing that being smaller with better service and little bit more focused service was a niche we occupied before the storm."

Isle of Capri Casino in Biloxi has put out the "Help Wanted" sign for its Gulf Coast property. Owned and operated by the Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE), the casino’s management said it will need more employees by Memorial Day to handle the increased business it expects for its new gambling area.

The expanded area includes 450 new slot machines and the reopening of the Tradewinds Marketplace with a variety of food offerings.

And at the Imperial Palace, that has been renamed the IP since reopening after Hurricane Katrina, hotel occupancy for its 850 rooms has been at 100%, said general manager, Jon Lucas.

"Gamblers are coming to the resort from Alabama, Georgia, North Mississippi and Louisiana," he said of the property that, through expansion, has become the largest casino on the Gulf Coast. The casino now employs 2,200 people, up from the pre-hurricane level of 1,250.

Prior to reopening, the IP began a million-dollar renovation project that is expected to be completed by the end of May. Included in the renovations are a Brazilian cuisine restaurant, an upgraded fitness area and spa, and a complete renovation of each hotel room.