Isle Boss Talks About Biloxi Expansion

A dozen years ago, Tim Hinkley was the first general manager at Mississippi's first casino -- a riverboat that sailed down from Iowa.

"If you remember that morning at 10:00 when you guys asked me how big the market was going to be," Hinkley reminsced, "I said, 'Well maybe $100 million.'"

It turns out the $100 million revenue guess was more than a billion dollars short of what the casino industry actually rakes in each year.

"What a learning experience," Hinkley laughed.

Hinkley is now the Isle's corporate president. And the biggest lesson he's learned in that role is the Biloxi Isle must constantly grow to compete with the other 11 coast casinos.

"The need had always been there. And we just had to be patient," he said.

Apparently, the Isle's patient days are over. It's already adding a second hotel to its Point Cadet resort. And now this news. By December of next year, the Isle will replace its current gambling barge with a larger, more modern $90 million floating casino.

Hinkley said, "The time came that we felt to truly fill out the property and make a complete facility that customers want, now is the time to do it."

The Isle first talked about replacing its barge four years ago. But those talks stalled. Last week, the decision was made to resurrect the expansion.

"It will be an excellent property that fits I think perfectly with this marketplace," Hinkley said.

Right now, the Isle has the smallest casino space on the coast. That will change next year, once the company replaces its barge.

This will actually be the third time the Isle completely changes the look of its casino. In 1992, gamblers played on two riverboats and a center barge. A year later, the current barge moved into place.

Casino number three should arrive in December 2005. Right now, it's sitting at a construction site along Gulfport's Industrial Seaway.