Lucky. That's how the casino's President and General Manager describes the IP. Katrina pushed 10 to 12 feet of water into the first floor of the casino's land based pavilion, but the barge had very little damage. And on Thursday, the newly renovated IP is set to make history, becoming the first casino to reopen in South Mississippi after the hurricane.
The sound of fire alarms and vacuum cleaners replaced the once-familiar ring of slot machines at the IP casino Tuesday evening.
"We have the fire marshal here. They're testing our fire alarms, and making sure, from a safety standpoint, we're ready to go. Other than that, we have the gaming commission testing our machines, along with our slot staffs, and lots of cleaning crew here, wiping down slot machines, putting the finishing touches on," said Jon Lucas, the IP's President and General Manager.
Since the day after the storm, employees have been busy cleaning and renovating the property, and they've had their work cut out for them.
"You'll really see a whole different feel on this property when you come in here. It's a much more contemporary look. We've gotten away from the Asian look," Lucas said.
The casino has 1,921 slot machines. That's compared to 1,400 before the storm. And the IP's employee payroll list has also expanded.
"We're up to about 1,500 employees with the expanding gaming floor that we've done. We've increased our slots, we've increased our table games, we've added a poker room. We've added some food and beverage outlets. With all that, it's required some more employees," Lucas said.
Lucas says the casino carries a new look, as well as a new name.
"We're going away from the Imperial Palace name and really shifting more to the IP. I think it helps to eliminate confusion with some of the competition's names and just an effort to reposition the property," Lucas said.
And despite the hand Katrina dealt the casino, Lucas believes the storm actually gave the IP a chance to ante up and raise the stakes in South Mississippi's gaming market.