Casinos Hope Their Gambles Pay Off - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/22/04

Casinos Hope Their Gambles Pay Off

Another five floors of hammering, and the frame of the Hard Rock hotel will tower over downtown Biloxi.

Joe Billhimer is president of the city's next casino resort. "We're focusing on our location," Billhimer said. "We're focusing on the local market. So we're well funded to carry out this project."

The front half of the casino barge is already at the downtown site. The back half should arrive in a few weeks. Construction crews are busy pile driving cement into the water to brace the barges. They're building the final floors of the hotel. And they're finishing the parking garage.

Hard Rock isn't worried about its competition. And it's not worried about its multi million dollar investment.

"Not with our location and our brand. I don't think it's a risk at all," said Billhimer.

Three miles east of the Hard Rock is Biloxi's other casino construction project. The Isle of Capri is building its second hotel.

"This will move us right up into the big leagues here," Isle general manager Bill Kilduff said.

As a ceremonial palm tree floated toward the top of the new hotel, the company celebrated the half way point of its latest venture.

"Oh man this is real important," said Kilduff. "We've been looking forward to this for years."

The Isle felt expansion was the only way it could keep up with its neighbors -- even if expansion carried an $80 million price tag.

"Yes it's very expensive to compete in this market right now," said Kilduff.

But that hasn't swayed the Isle. And it hasn't stopped the Hard Rock.

"We're bringing a great brand to the gulf coast," said Billhimer.

The Hard Rock debuts next fall. The Isle of Capri's new hotel opens in May.

by Brad Kessie

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