A small Treasure Bay plans to open next week

Jackson – Treasure Bay Casino can reopen with only 81 slot machines, the Mississippi Gaming Commission ruled on Thursday.

The machines will be located in the old Pirate’s Den and gamblers will have to walk through a plywood tunnel to get there. The casino plans to be back in business by next week, possibly as early as Monday, even though construction is ongoing.

Although no one said it publicly, the plans caused concern that the state might be setting a precedent that would allow small lounge casinos to slip into the market.

Susan Varnes, the casino company’s chief operating officer, addressed the concerns directly.

„I know you have pressure on granting our development,“ she said to the commissioners. „I know it’s very small in opening.“

Varnes pointed out the company had spent USD 27 million acquiring property around its casino and now controls 30 acres. Treasure Bay is also spending USD 25 million to upgrade its hotel and put a temporary casino inside it, she said.

„We’re not just doing it halfway,“ Varnes said. „We really are trying to create a nice project.“

The property will be fully operational by October, she said.

Treasure Bay would be the fourth casino back in business and the first in a new wave of reopenings. The IP, the Isle of Capri Biloxi and the Palace reopened in December.

Opening this summer are Boomtown Biloxi on June 29, Grand Casino Biloxi in mid-August, Beau Rivage on Aug. 29 and Gulfport Oasis in early September.

The commission on Thursday approved the new location for the Grand Casino Biloxi’s gambling floor inside the convention area of the Bayview Hotel on the north side of U.S. 90. Karen Sock, the casino’s general manager, said it will employ 1,400 when it reopens. The casino’s parent company, Harrah’s Entertainment, has announced intentions to spend a billion dollars or more on a bigger resort in Biloxi.

The commission also granted a license to Gulfside Casino Partnership to operate the Gulfport Oasis. The owners closed on a financing arrangement Wednesday that will provide more than USD 200 million toward the buildout of the resort.

The casino will go inside the hotel that the Grand Casino Gulfport operated on the north side of U.S. 90. A feature popular with tourists, the Lazy River, will be lost.

Rick Quinn, an executive with Gulfside Casino Partnership, said the casino is being expanded into the river zone to stay within 800 feet of where casinos are allowed.

Harrah’s sold the property to Gulfside Casino Partnership earlier this year for USD 55 million.