Margaritaville Biloxi turns one, hotel plans in the works

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A year ago, thousands lined up outside Margaritaville waiting to get in. Feelings were flying high. Jimmy Buffett played to the adoring crowd.

But within weeks, that crowd thinned. Management changes were made, and the casino is moving aggressively with a major addition now.

"Currently, we're in the feasibility study of determining exactly what type of hotel it's going to be, what level," Margaritaville CEO Doug Shipley said. "It's a very, very exciting time right now. We have a multitude of options that we're currently exploring."

That's not all either.

"We're bringing in more than 100 brand new slots. People want to play where their games are and so we recognized that early on and we're doing several changes to the gaming floor," Shipley explained.

He also said eating a meal will also be a changing experience.

"We're currently in the design stages of one of the most magnificent buffets that will be down here on the gulf coast, both in size, scope, and offerings."

While business was booming at Margaritaville for the first few weeks, it tailed off quickly after that. And casino executives admit, one of the biggest mistakes they made was opening without a players club.

"One of the things that we had to implement, obviously in a hyper-competitive market and a very mature gaming market, was the players club and rewards and recognition for guests play."

Marketing the new amenities will be a top priority in the future. 

"We're building our data base, with billboard advertising. We're on TV, radio and print and we're full force ahead," Marketing Vice-President Stacey McKay said.

For the employees, there's new excitement as the casino embarks on year number two.  Katie Dunn is one of them.

"It was rocky at the beginning, but things are rocking and rolling and we are looking ahead and not back," Dunn exclaimed.

Casino officials are hoping the changes means fortunes will change as well and more people will take Margaritaville out for a spin.

Shipley said after plans for the hotel are finalized, construction should being sometime later this year.

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