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Tunica casinos keep things fresh with major renovations in 2006

The more things change, the better casino patrons like it. In a highly competitive market, successful casino resorts are always working to update and improve their product.

Claire Pittman, public relations manager of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, says casinos in Tunica — billed as the South’s Casino Capital — have invested millions in renovations and upgrades this year.

“We are excited the casinos have decided to reinvest their dollars to make it an even better experience for people who want to come here in the future,” Pittman said. “There is enough competition in this market that all of the casinos have to make sure they are putting their best foot forward.”

Providing guests with the best possible entertainment experience is their number one priority, said Valerie Morris, Harrah’s Entertainment Mid-South regional director of communications and community affairs.

“We are constantly renovating and updating to remain on the forefront of gaming and dining initiatives, as well as cutting-edge technological advances, like plasma televisions in hotel rooms and state-of-the-art sound systems in our venues, to ensure guests have wonderful experiences,” Morris said.

Harrah’s has three casinos in the Tunica market:

• Horseshoe recently added the Diamond Lounge/Founder’s Club and a Starbucks and redesigned its high-limit area.

• Grand Casino has added fountains at the valet and redesigned its high-limit area. The Grand has also remodeled the Diamond Lounge and recently completed remodeling all of its rooms at the Grand Hotel.

• Sheraton remodeled its Showroom, installing new carpet, paint, lighting and ceiling.There have also been new Total Rewards Centers at all three properties.

At Hollywood Casino, investments have been made to renovate their buffet. About $300,000 was invested in the upgrades that included extending the buffet line from 85 to 140 feet.
Hollywood spokeswoman Mary Beth Felt said future expansion plans include increasing the number of seats and tables in the buffet, the addition of a non-smoking slot section and renovations of restrooms and some hotel suites.

Bally’s Casinos has changed the décor and menu for the Silo Eatery and the Barn Steakhouse. And it has added Asian, B-B-Q and Southern stations to its buffet.

The Fitz Casino, formerly Fitzgerald’s, began phase one of a project this month that includes renovating the hotel lobby and the front desk check-in area, with the addition of a VIP check-in area, elevators and hotel rooms. The Fitz is also adding additional suites throughout the hotel.

The Resorts Casino Tunica has undergone a complete exterior renovation, and has new signs and a new name to reflect new ownership. Updates in hotel rooms include new carpet. There is also a new steakhouse, a new bistro and new slot machines.

Sam’s Town, Tunica’s largest casino, is up to 860 hotel rooms and suites and 66,000 square feet of gaming. The casino employs 1,260 people. The casino also has 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

And there is a new highway to deliver visitors to the Tunica casino resorts. — Interstate 69 between Interstate 55 and Highway 61 opened in early October. Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said I-69 will allow for faster, safer and easier access for the thousands of visitors and employees entering Tunica County on a daily basis.

“The opening of I-69 will serve to bring the Memphis-Tunica area much closer together,” Franklin said. “Highway 61/Third Street, with multiple stop lights, and Highway 304 have been the primary routes to Tunica during the area’s staggering growth over the past 15 years.”

Tunica County Chamber of Commerce executive director Lyn Arnold said the opening of Interstate 69 will help the county achieve its goals of expanding and diversifying its economy.

For information about visiting Tunica, see the Web site at www.tunicamiss.com or call toll free at 888-4-TUNICA.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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