Give a company like Island View land to develop north of Highway 90. Then give it access to enough cash to expand. And watch what happens when you walk through a construction door and enter a nearly finished casino expansion.
"Pretty amazing, isn't it," Island View owner Rick Carter asked.
He's the man overseeing Island View's expansion. Asked for one word to describe the changes being made to his Highway 90 casino, Carter simply said, "Impressive."
Gulfport's only casino just closed a day to buy the Windance golf course. And in less than two weeks, the Island View Casino Resort raises the curtain on an expansion that gives it as much gambling space as any casino in south Mississippi. The Gulfport casino is quickly adding the finishing touches to phase two of its on shore improvements.
In a corner of the expansion is Emeril Lagasse's restaurant. It opens about a month after the slot floor opens.
"We feel like we have the business to support this," Carter said.
Carter didn't have those amenities when he ran the Copa Casino. That casino was docked at the foot of the Port of Gulfport. It got washed ashore by Katrina's storm surge. This casino is on land, across the street from the port.
"We're a different game now. And people are starting to realize that," said Carter.
Just 14 months ago, Carter and his partner Terry Green stood on top of the Hancock Bank roof in downtown Gulfport and looked down at their post Katrina acquisition. On March 15, 2006, they spent $55 million to buy the hurricane damaged Grand Casino Gulfport site. And that day they promised to bring the north side of the resort back to life. Now, they look at their reflections in new slot machines around the newly expanded resort, and the old Copa Casino owners see their wildest dreams coming true.
"It's the most surreal feeling I've ever been through. I never dreamed we would have anything this nice," Carter said.
Becky Rhodes worked at the Copa. Now, she's a dealer for the Island View Employee. She's very impressed with what the ownership has done to Grand's Oasis Hotel location. "It's absolutely wonderful. Very excited. Ready to get in here and get started," Rhodes said.
The Island View expansion opens May 14. Island View hired 600 people to staff its expansion. It now has 1,800 employees. And that doesn't count the people Emeril Lagasse will hire to run his Emeril's Gulf Coast Fish House when it opens in June.