The Island View casino, which is housed in the erstwhile Grand Casino Gulfport, has opened. For now, at least, it’s the only casino in Gulfport. From the Sun Herald:
Gulfport is back in the casino business. The Island View opened Monday evening about an hour and a half earlier than planned, giving people time to mingle, find the slot machine that felt lucky or check out the buffet offerings.
Rochelle Harper of Sister Jazz sang old standards at the north entrance, where dripping ice sculptures of pelicans kept the shrimp cool.
But first there were the speeches and the ribbon cutting.
Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr thanked owners Rick Carter and Terry Green “for putting their money and heart” back into Gulfport to create a premium resort. Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the two men could have taken their insurance money and spent their time golfing in Palm Beach instead of reinvesting.
“What we need in Mississippi are more Ricks and Terrys,” Speed said. “People with a dream and a skill to make that dream come to pass.”
The men, who have been business partners since 1988, took a different route than other casino developers after Hurricane Katrina. Carter and Green, who owned the Copa Casino, stayed focused on building back in Gulfport even though the mayor initially opposed allowing casinos to go north of U.S. 90. When Harrahs Entertainment opted to leave the city and put its resources in Biloxi, they bought two hotels and a 40-acre site from Harrahs for $55 million. They then leveraged the property to secure a quarter billion in financing.
Now, they have the only casino in the Coasts largest city.
The gambling floor that opened Monday night inside the old Gulfport Grand Casino Oasis Hotel with 1,033 slot machines and 14 table games will be much larger by next spring. Then it will have 2,400 slot machines and 50 table games along with new restaurants, a sand-beach swimming pool and a covered parking lot. Longer-term expansions are also in the works.
For the next few years, openings and expansions will be big news on the Gulf Coast.