Palace Moves Its Casino Into Its Hotel

The Palace had a rather low key opening. Less than 100 people stood outside this casino, waiting for an invitation to re-enter this property.

Before the storm, the casino was on a barge. Now, it's in the hotel lobby.

Larry Gregory is the gaming commission's executive director.

"You have the same slot machines. The same table games. It's just on land instead of on water," he said.

Gregory was at the Palace Casino to make sure its post-Katrina reopening went off without a hitch.

"It's different," he said, referring to regulating an on shore casino, "because of the circumstances."

The circumstances have everything to do with Hurricane Katrina. Her fury destroyed parts of every south Mississippi casino. The ones with the least amount of damage are being rebuilt first. So, the Palace is the third casino to reopen in eight days. It's the second to move its slot machines on shore.

Palace General Manager Keith Crosby spent part of September in Jackson, lobbying lawmakers for the opportunity to move casinos off barges, and away from the direct path of hurricanes.

"What we were asking for was to be able to deliver this," he said.

What the Palace created is a smaller version of what Crosby's company had on his barge. Designers turned hotel lobby space and meeting rooms into two floors of gambling action.

Five year Palace dealer Maury Hodgens was impressed with his new work environment.

"It's unbelievable. I haven't been here in four months. And to see all the work they've done in here. It's just great to be back and get the community going," he said.

The gaming commission is just as excited about this new opportunity for the industry it regulates -- an industry that got hammered by a powerful hurricane.

"The message is that the gulf coast is open up for business," Gregory said. "We're ready to rebound from Hurricane Katrina. And I think this is only a beginning."

The Palace put 450 people back to work today when it opened this on shore casino. Before the hurricane, this resort had almost a thousand employees.