It’s not the newest or the biggest casino in Vicksburg. Miss., but the Rainbow has carved out a loyal following by delivering its own brand of fun and value in a friendly, down-home atmosphere.

“People aren’t intimidated by Rainbow,” says General Manager Vivi Piskowitz. “It’s a friendly, family-type casino. A lot of us have been here for 15 years, and a lot of our customers have been around that long, and they’re just comfortable.”

When the Rainbow first opened on July 16, 1994, locals traveled from a 100-mile radius to play the 573 slots and 28 table games. But they came back, Piskowitz says, because of the people and the value and entertainment they receive for their gaming dollar.

“We maintain our good, low prices. They know they can come get a quality meal here. It’s good home cooking. They know when they come and play that we give them good return on their money, whether it’s points or direct-mail response or promotions. We’re always making sure we have the best prices or the best games or the best pay-back or the best point structure. We give them more time on device.”

Rainbow also has a strong video poker following. “I think our reputation for that has grown,” says Piskowitz. “People from all over the state know us for that.”

And those core drivers haven’t changed, even as the property has improved over the years with a greater variety of games - more than 800 video and reel-spinning slots and seven table games - and more casual dining options and special events and activities.

The property originally was operated by Rainbow City Casino Partnership, a subsidiary of Alliance Gaming, which later acquired slot maker Bally Gaming International and in 2006 changed its name to Bally Technologies. The Rainbow has undergone numerous expansions and improvements since. Among the more significant was the addition of an 89-room hotel owned and operated by AmeriHost Inns. Most recently, the Rainbow added the 12,500-square-foot upscale Riverview Buffet and two meeting rooms.

For Bally, ownership provides unique benefits.

“The casino is quite possibly one of the best returns on invested capital ever in a casino, and it is a good revenue-generating business for Bally Technologies as a corporate entity,” says Alex Dungan, Bally vice president of casino operations.

It also serves as a platform for Bally to refine new products and compare their performance to those of other manufacturers.

“While Vicksburg is a unique market when you compare it to markets throughout the world, it does give us a good statistical representation of how we, as Bally game providers, perform against our competitive set,” says Dungan.

Bally’s systems products also are deployed on the floor, including SDS and iView, and that gives the company an additional opportunity to learn, Dungan says. “It lets us work out the kinks before we go out to the rest of the customers in the world.”

Last October, when the Riverwalk Casino Hotel opened up right next door it took a bite out of Rainbow’s market, but it also has begun to create some critical mass for both properties.

“It’s really been good for us,” Piskowitz says. “It’s helped to get more people down here, and we’re sort of feeding off each other in our promotions, and we have a lot of overflow. People walk back and forth - they park once and go twice.”

The neighbor also keeps Rainbow on its toes.

“We’ve tried to spend money getting our floor freshened up, getting new games in, getting new carpet and new ceiling tile and painting,” Piskowitz says. “We’re trying to get back to our main theme as Rainbow as a colorful place. We’re adding a lot of color, and we’ve added a lot of meeting space so we can accommodate bigger groups.”

It’s paying off, she says, as more events, such as family reunions, wedding receptions and class reunions are being booked.

Rainbow and Riverwalk are exploring ways to generate even more synergy by pooling resources for joint events. “We’ve talked with their people, and that is out there in the future, to have products and promotions and events together,” Piskowitz says. “We have twice the hotel space now, twice the space for meetings and twice the space for meals to provide for people so we can have bigger events here.”

And having a strong sense of identity and an understanding of its players continues to serve Rainbow well.

 “We do what we do best and do it very profitably,” Piskowitz says. “And we also are stand-alone, so we’re not controlled by some corporate marketing function off somewhere that doesn’t really understand our area and our people, and we have the flexibility to change what we do on a day’s notice if we have to. We might just decide to have a tournament and send out some invitations to a few people or have a little party for somebody. We can do a lot more of those things spontaneously.”

Rainbow Facts

• Located on 57 acres along the Mississippi River, two miles south of Interstate 20 in Vicksburg, Miss.
• More than 800 video and reel-spinning slot machines and seven table games
• 340 employees
• Opened July 16, 1994
• Dining amenities include the Riverview Buffet, featuring popular Southern and traditional favorites and international cuisine, and the blues-themed Crossroads Deli, offering hamburgers and specialty sandwiches
• The Rainbow Hotel, operated by Amerihost Inns, offers 89 rooms, including suites, king and double-occupancies
•  Meeting space includes the 125-seat River Room and the 1,000-seat Rainbow Event Center