Gamblers Line Up To Try Isle's On Shore Casino

Bill Kilduff stood at the top of the stairs leading to his hotel.

"I think it's about time," the Isle of Capri general manager said. "Let the good times roll."

Those five words set off a wild celebration. The song "Celebrate" blared out of speakers. And almost 500 guests marched up the steps and headed toward the Isle's new casino. Isle employees became cheerleaders. They welcomed back guests they hadn't seen roaming their hallways since August 28.

"I'm glad to see all the people coming back to see us," dealer Tom Pence said. "I tell you, it's just one big family. Glad to have everybody back."

Pence has been with the Isle for more than four years. Like many of his colleagues, he got hit hard by Katrina's powerful punch.

"Personally, I'm living in half a house," he said. "But we're luckier than most."

Luck seemed to be a common theme inside the newly designed land based casino. The dice didn't always produce winners. But just the fact that the games were being played again meant nearly 1,000 storm victims could go back to work.

Dyrant Smith was one of those workers.

"It's very important because then it gives us something to look forward to," she said.

Donna Smigelski was just glad to have a job again.

"We're getting paid, so that's one good thing," the housekeeper said. "And it's good to see people having a good time after all what everyone has been through."

To build its land based casino, the Isle gutted meeting rooms and turned them into gaming space. The Isle of Capri became the first resort to take advantage of a new, post-Katrina law that allows casino games up to 800 feet inland.

"I just wanted to congratulate the Isle, the Isle's team for putting this together so quickly," Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told guests just before the noon grand opening.

It took less than three months for the Isle to turn the meeting rooms into the state's first shore based casino.