Isle of Capri Biloxi was recently sold and will be converted to a Golden Nugget facility.


The Mississippi Gulf coast gaming market has had more than its fair share of bad luck over the past seven years or so; a list of calamities that included the utter devastation meted by Hurricane Katrina, an unprecedented offshore oil spill that severely crippled the region’s recovering tourism industry, and a prolonged economic recession that sapped gaming revenues.

The area was due for a break, and so far 2012 looks like it may be a watershed year for Gulf Coast gaming. To start, the Jimmy Buffett-inspired Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant on Biloxi’s Back Bay is set to open later this month, pending regulatory approval. The 85,000-square-foot first phase of this development will include a casino, 300-seat restaurant, retail space, an outdoor bar, dining and entertainment venue and a marina.

Margaritaville will bring the Gulf Coast gaming market back up to its pre-Katrina level of 12 casinos, and hopefully help it regain some of the revenues it has lost to neighboring casino jurisdictions. All told, Gulf Coast casino pulled in roughly $1.1 billion in revenue last year, still well below the market’s high point of $1.3 billion in revenue set in 2007.

More help may be on the way, however. In March, Landry’s Inc., the owners of the Golden Nugget Casino chain, announced the purchase of the Isle of Capri property in Biloxi for $45 million. Plans call for a massive renovation and a re-branding to Golden Nugget Biloxi.

All upgrades on the property are scheduled for completion by 2013.

“The entire property will be updated with a modern look to include new bars and lounges with live entertainment, stylish retail offerings and updated rooms,” said Tilman J. Fertitta, chairman, CEO, and owner of Landry’s in a prepared statement shortly after the deal was announced. “There will be a high energy Rush Lounge and a unique Live Bar to complement a new spa, poker room, and a state of the art showroom. Also, there will be an innovative H2O Resort Pool and Lounge which will introduce all season hot tubs and fire pits. Together these will deliver an exhilarating experience unlike anything available in Biloxi.”

Meanwhile, Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts also unveiled its intentions to enter the Gulf Coast market, purchasing the Silver Slipper Casino in Bay St. Louis for $70 million, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. The property, which opened in 2006, features a 37,000-square-foot casino.

“This property is perfectly sized to complement our current business and provides a substantial growth opportunity through the possible addition of a hotel,” Andre Hilliou, chairman and CEO of Full House, told the Review Journal. “We believe that we can leverage our knowledge ... of managing properties catering to local customers in competitive environments to further improve the profitability of the Silver Slipper.”

The Mississippi coast community of D’Iberville may also soon be home to two new casino developments, reports the Biloxi Sun Herald. The proposal that seems farthest along is Oyster Bay Casino, a $150 million resort that will be built in two phases on a 10-acre site. The property, which will feature a New Orleans French Quarter-inspired design, will include a 41,000-square-foot casino, a hotel tower, pool, events center, restaurants and other amenities.

Land Holdings I is also reportedly eying a D’Iberville resort development on land west of the Oyster Bay property.