Bob Davidge walked into a hotel ballroom and seemed surprised.
"This room last week was completely full of slot machines," he said.
Davidge found the slots in what used to be the lobby of Casino Magic's hotel tower. But that lobby, the spa, and the restaurant areas on the first floor had been transformed into casino space. The area looked like it had stagehands striking one Hollywood set and building another for Hancock County's next premiere.
J.J. Jagunich is director of this casino production.
"The minute we were given those lemons, we made lemonade," the casino executive said. "We're ready to go."
The script for this rebirth is like a Hollywood movie. The plot centers around a storm that clobbered a floating casino, and the hotel connected to it.
"If you had been here a year ago, there would have been six feet of mud. Fifteen feet of water," remarked Jagunich.
Walk up a flight of steps in a back stairwell, and you can still see a water line from the August 29th disaster.
After that storm, Penn National Gaming vowed to rebuild. It took advantage of new gaming laws and moved its temporary casino into what used to be lobby space. And then, like magic, the resort dropped its Casino Magic name and went Hollywood.
"We know we set the bar pretty high as Casino Magic Bay St. Louis. We have some standards to meet up to," said Davidge.
Jagunich credited his staff for the rebirth.
"I think it's the will and determination of not only Penn National Gaming, but the employees of the former Casino Magic, now Hollywood, that really have brought this all together," he said.
The oldest part of the newly revamped casino may be its employees. Almost 65 percent of the 1,035 people hired to reopen Hollywood spent time in Bay St. Louis with Casino Magic - including Bob Davidge.
"It's very exciting because a lot of us have been displaced for a number of months," he said.
The premiere for those people will be in September. An official opening date could be announced later this week.
by Brad Kessie
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