Home » Feature Story

Golf, gambling in Biloxi: Casinos fuel comeback in the wake of Katrina

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Isle of Capri - Biloxi
View large image
| More photos
The Caribbean-themed Isle of Capri boasts 1,300 slot machines, a live poker room and 30 table games. (Courtesy isleofcapricasino.com)

Hotel/casinos such as the Beau Rivage, Silver Slipper, the Island View Casino Resort and Biloxi Grand Casino at the Bay View Hotel are a great bet as a base for a Mississippi Gulf Coast golf vacation.

Casinos might not be the lifeblood of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but they're keeping the region's bank accounts pumping these days.

State lawmakers understood that when they decided to allow casinos to get out of the water after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in August 2005.

At the time, state law barred casinos on dry land, relegating them to barges. Now they're leading the region's economic revival, including its golf industry .

Biloxi, which had fallen to No. 15 among the nation's urban casino markets, has climbed back to No. 11 with $845.2 million in revenue in 2006.

If you're considering a Biloxi golf trip, your best bet for lodging is probably one of the casino hotels. But the landscape has changed since Katrina.

Biloxi casinos: Where to stay

The Beau Rivage reopened on Aug. 29, 2006, the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. The big news here is that the casino has also opened Fallen Oak Golf Course.

This Tom Fazio design, available only to casino guests, single-handedly elevates the region's golf scene - it's that good. The biggest and wealthiest of the Biloxi casinos, the Beau Rivage is probably the only one that could pump money into a track like this.

There are also new restaurants (there are now seven, plus four lounges and bars) along with 12 shops, a spa, salon, pool and convention center. The luxurious casino and the 1,700-plus guest rooms and suites have all been redesigned.

Silver Slipper is a new player, opening last November. It has more than 1,000 slot machines, 26 table games, 10 poker tables and restaurants. It's located west of Waveland in Hancock County at the former Bayou Caddy site.

Gulfport Grand Casino, the only casino in Gulfport, was pretty much wasted by Katrina. Island View Casino Resort, its replacement, opened in September 2006 in a temporary facility at the Gulfport Grand site.

The Island View has one of the best views in Gulfport, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Cat Island, part of an expansive national park. The hotel has more than 500 newly designed rooms with gulf views and an 83,000-square-foot gaming floor. The 350-seat buffet features one of the Biloxi area's better dessert bars.

Hollywood Casino replaced Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, but you can still walk from the slots directly to the excellent Bridges golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.

The hotel has nearly 300 rooms overlooking the marina, the golf course, the Jourdan River and the Bay of St. Louis, plus a pool and cabana bar and four restaurants, including Shaker's Martini Bar, a personal favorite.

A lot of people like to bring their RVs here. Good Sam Park has 100 hookups with cable TV, barbecue grills, a pavilion and 24-hour security. It's a party out there.

Biloxi Grand Casino reopened Aug. 17 at the Bay View Hotel, which survived the storm. The casino's shoreline property is being demolished to make way for a billion-dollar resort.

There is a large gaming floor located in the hotel.

The IP Casino Resort and Spa (formerly the Imperial Palace) reopened in December 2005 with 1,000 refurbished rooms, new decor and several new restaurants. Try the Chill Ultra Lounge, which opened in May 2006.

The Isle of Capri was the first floating casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when it opened in 1992. It reopened in December 2005, still on the water, with more than 700 rooms and 200 suites.

The casino has 1,300 slot machines, 30 table games and a live poker room. It's a Caribbean-themed resort with a spa and multi-level pool area.

Isle of Capri recently bought a city block on the north side of Highway 90 and announced plans for a new, $180 million land-based structure in Biloxi. Nearly 45,000 square feet of meeting space, now being used for gaming, will be turned back into meeting space.

The new facility will have more than 2,000 slot machines, 50 table games and a new poker room. There are also plans to expand its tropical buffet, rebuild Farradday's Steakhouse and add another restaurant.

Palace Casino Resort reopened Dec. 30, 2005, right where it was before Katrina hit - on the water. The casino overlooks the Biloxi Back Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, daring Mother Nature to try again.

The hotel has 236 marble-floored room; the large suites have refrigerators and bars. There's 43,500 square feet of casino and two excellent restaurants, including Mignon, which has a superb wine selection. The Palace Buffet is a smorgasbord of Italian, Southern, Asian and barbecue food.

Palace Casino is affiliated with The Preserve Golf Club, which opened last July. The course is surrounded by 1,800 acres of nature preserve; no house will ever sully its ambience.

Western-themed Boomtown Casino reopened in June 2006. It has the biggest parking lot of any casino in Biloxi.

Treasure Bay Casino Resort opened a temporary casino in its hotel; a larger one is planned. For now, there are 330 slot and video machines, with plans to add 400 more on the main casino floor.

Casino officials hope the rebuilding project will be completed this summer, with 249 guest rooms and suites in the completely remodeled hotel tower.

Biloxi casinos: Coming soon

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino - which was days from opening its doors when the hurricane hit - is now scheduled to open July 7.

Bacaran Bay Casino Resort has plans for an all-suites hotel with a 75,000 square-foot casino and an 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course.

Royal D'Iberville Casino and Hotel is planned for the west side of Interstate 10, catching people before they get to the Biloxi peninsula with a 60,000-square-foot casino.

More photos

Island View Casino Resort - BiloxiIsland View Casino - Biloxi

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • http://www.blackjack-stratagy.com

    blackjack strategy wrote on: Feb 23, 2009

    When Hurricane Katrina hit last year, wiping out two of the city's 10 casinos and heavily damaging eight others, it looked as if Biloxi's gambling industry would float out to sea with the wreckage.Instead, it's in the midst of a comeback that could put Biloxi on the road to becoming the southern casino capital it has yearned to be since gambling was legalized here in 1990.Though no one here will come right out and say it, Katrina -- from which much of the city has barely begun to recover -- was a boon to Biloxi's casinos, washing away old limits that had restrained their growth. The confusion and panic following the storm's devastation gave the gambling industry an opening to muscle through a law change that before was unthinkable in this Bible Belt state wary of casino expansion.