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Amenities, packages, entertainment entice guests to visit

Casinos throughout the Magnolia State offer a wide array of amenities and getaway packages to bring in visitors, even those who have no interest in gambling. Although many of these enticements exist for Gulf Coast casinos, others are in the works as the area’s properties renovate and rebuild after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

“We have hotel packages that include room, food and gaming, which we advertise in targeted markets,” said Rick Carter, managing partner of Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport. “We also offer a lot of gaming promotions to add variety.”

The property opened its first phase last September and Carter says it’s on target to open the second phase this spring that will increase gaming space and add more slot machines and table games. The most exciting thing though is a restaurant by celebrity chef Emeril Legasse.

“Our Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House will open this summer, bringing a whole new dining experience to our area,” he said.

Now that the Grand Casino Biloxi is a Harrah’s property, it is pairing with Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans for promotions and packages. Currently drawing interest are Hats! Packages to attend the Hats! Musical in New Orleans. Each package includes specially discounted spa services at the Grand Biloxi’s Bellissimo Spa and Salon along with discount tickets for the show. Group rates are also available.

A new Starbucks is the latest amenity at the Isle of Capri Resort in Biloxi, according to Bill Kilduff, vice president and general manager, where there are a variety of restaurants to please guests, including one inspired by celebrity chef Luke Palladino.

“Casino guests are looking for a complete experience,” he said. “Basically, one destination where they can enjoy gaming, stay a few nights, enjoy the spa and dine. The restaurants are just one element in the total encounter.”

Kilduff said a $180-million construction project at the Isle will include a land-based casino, new facilities for some existing restaurants and a new one that is yet to be named. The 45,000 square feet of convention space that is currently serving as gaming space will be restored to its original use and the casino entryway will be renovated to allow guests easier access.

“Entertainment is what’s new at the Beau Rivage,” said Mary Cracchiolo, director of public relations. “With the reopening of our theater, we are again bringing big names and top acts to the Coast.”

Some of those names appearing at the Beau Rivage Theater in the next few months are Gladys Knight, Wayne Newton, Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka, Lord of the Dance, Ray Ramano and Brad Garrett and the Beach Boys.

At Treasure Bay Casino, a popular pre-storm restaurant, Captain’s Quarters, will be returning this summer with an updated look. “The restaurant will be called CQ and will be located on the ninth floor of the hotel tower,” said director of marketing Kathy Santiago. “Every seat will overlook the Gulf. Adjacent to CQ will be our ultra-modern lounge, blu. A tapas menu will be available there for those with a light appetite.”

She said Treasure Bay has not determined the types of packages to offer, but is working with other businesses in the community to create unforgettable vacation getaways.

IP Casino Resort general manager Jon Lucas says that property sends out 200,000 pieces of direct mail each month with various offers as incentives to guests. “We are sophisticated enough to know who’s local and who’s not. These are known customers,” he said. “We have a general idea what their profile is; what they play; their dining preferences; the number of nights they stay. Because of that, we know how to put together offers.”

As the Coast’s first casino to reopen after the storm, the IP has hosted many meetings and conventions in its ballroom and convention center. Leslie Barfield, director of hotel sales, says interest is tremendous.

“We have a banquet kitchen dedicated strictly to large groups, and that’s a rarity for Coast properties,” she said. “We take great pride in the creativity of our banquet and catering department and their ability to customize the menu and décor to the needs of each organization.”

The Senses Spa at the IP is serious about giving guests an ultimate spa experience. “It’s beautiful,” said Director Kris Norton. “The most unusual feature is our coed lounge and steam room. It’s the only one on the Coast that has that. Couples who want to be together can be together.”

She adds that swim suits are required in the steam room and couples still go to separate sides of the spa for dressing and to don slippers and robes.

The Spa and Salon at the Beau Rivage is expansive and luxurious overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Guests can enjoy the view or find a peaceful setting in the spa’s two distinct areas, the relaxation lounge and the mediation area. A juice bar features freshly squeezed vegetable juices and refreshing fruit smoothies, and the Café specializes in light salads and sandwiches.

“The tranquil surroundings and expert staff are just the beginning of this spa experience,” said spa director Michelle Kennedy. “Our expanded menu incorporates a fusion of treatments found at the world’s top resorts and perfected with Southern flair at Beau Rivage.”

Dining is a major amenity at the Palace Casino where Mignon’s Steaks & Seafood restaurant is gaining a reputation for its wine offerings. The restaurant was selected as one of the nation’s most wine-friendly restaurants for 2006 by Wine Enthusiast magazine in the February 2007 issue. It’s the second award Mignon’s has received for 2006. It was also awarded an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.

Mignon’s manager and sommelier Brad Maples says he and his staff strive to make dining and enjoying fine wine a pleasant experience for guests.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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