Millions invested in South Mississippi casinos over the last couple of years have brought new restaurants, meeting rooms and especially hotel rooms to the Coast.
The inventory of rooms and suites grew by 500 from June 2014 to June 2015 at the 11 Coast casinos. Silver Slipper Casino in Hancock County has since added rooms and suites, and the total will increase by 300 when Scarlet Pearl Casino opens in D'Iberville in early December.
Contractor Roy Anderson is slated to turn over the building to Scarlet Pearl the week of Thanksgiving, said Hank Rogers, D'Iberville's community-development director. The city gave temporary certificates of occupancy last week for the mezzanine area and the first five floors of the hotel so furniture and equipment can be moved in.
Outside the long-awaited casino, crews are building an exploding volcano that will be the centerpiece of an 18-hole miniature golf course.
Along with more beds, hotels have added more bling to the casinos. The colorful lights that illuminate Island View Casino's new $58 million Beach Tower dance
up and down the outside of the building. Harrah's Gulf Coast announced this week that the remodel all of its guest rooms and suites plus the corridors and lobby with designs created by a Las Vegas firm and Coast art for local appeal.
At Silver Slipper Casino, general manager John Ferrucci said the new hotel and suites are like a reward to customers who remained loyal to the casino when it didn't have a hotel. He said they have also attracted better players from other properties.
"It's done exactly what we hoped it would do -- created a buzz," he said.
Palace Casino has completed extensive renovations of its Preserve Golf Club in the last year. New greens with Precision Aire systems and TifEagle Bermuda grass, redesigned bunkers, improved course drainage and laser-leveled tee boxes helped rank the Preserve the No. 2 course in Mississippi and winner of Golfweek magazine's "Best Courses You Can Play" award.
The Palace also kicked off a series of jackpots at Coast casinos this year when a local man won $373,000 on a dollar Monopoly Luxury Diamonds slot machine in January. A Biloxi resident won $637,957 at the Palace playing a penny Elton John progressive slot machine in July and players at the Beau Rivage and IP Casino have also hit jackpots this year.
The renovation of all the hotel rooms at Palace Casino Resort and Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi and construction of a new hotel tower at Hard Rock Casino Biloxi set off a wave of construction projects across South Mississippi.
Golden Nugget General Manager Chett Harrison said its renovation was complete about 15 months ago and the resort maintains that new look and feel. It is the sole job of three people to keep the quality of those hotel rooms, he said. There's also what he calls one of the best swimming pools in the South and a new entertainment venue.
"It just adds to the resort experience for people coming to town," he said.
Casinos across the Coast are adding to the experience.
IP Casino Resort in Biloxi is working on a $2.5 million remodel of hotel rooms. Beau Rivage opened a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor this year and is building a high-limits area off the casino floor.
Hard Rock Casino added a Half Shell Oyster House location, Pie Five pizza restaurant and Tequila's on the Gulf poolside restaurant. Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis opened an arcade and Boomtown Casino Biloxi has a new events room and an RV park.