by The M&C Staff | April 01, 2013

The past year has been a busy one for the casino world, as outlined in these reports from Pennsylvania and the Gulf Coast, along with some additional news from Las Vegas and RenoTahoe. (Read more here.)

GULF COASTBiloxi, Miss.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Biloxi is adding a 154-room tower that is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The new 12-story addition will increase the property's total room capacity to 479. The existing complex features more than 1,200 slot machines, 50 table games, a poker room, an Aveda concept spa, an outdoor pool, five restaurants and the 13,000-square-foot Hard Rock Live theater, which can accommodate more than 1,800 guests. The property offers a total of nearly 25,000 square feet of function space.

The Isla Casino currently is being renovated and will be rebranded as a Golden Nugget this June. The project includes a new space adjacent to the existing casino for slot machines, new restaurants, a comedy club and several retail stores. Once construction is completed, the 721-room property will offer 20,317 square feet of function space.

The Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant opened in May 2012 with 26,000 square feet of gaming space, the signature Margaritaville Restaurant and a marina.

The 1,740-room Beau Rivage Resort & Casino has achieved a 4 Green Key rating from the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, which ranks hotels, motels and resorts on a 5 Green Key scale. The hotel is one of just two properties in Mississippi to receive 4 Green Keys, the highest rating in the state.

Vicksburg, Miss.
Churchill Downs Inc. has acquired the 80-room Riverwalk Casino Hotel, a deal valued at approximately $141 million. The 22-acre property on the Mississippi River offers 25,000 square feet of gaming with 723 slot machines and 18 table games. The adjacent five-story hotel includes a 5,600-square-foot event center and two dining areas.

Baton Rouge, La.
L'Auberge Casino and Hotel in Baton Rouge opened last September. The 205-room complex offers a 74,000-square-foot casino with nearly 1,500 slot machines, 50 table games and a poker room. The property also includes a rooftop pool, four dining outlets, a multi-purpose event center that can accommodate more than 1,500 people, and an outdoor event space for up to 2,500.

Bossier City, La.
Work continues on this city's Margaritaville Resort Casino, which will offer 30,000 square feet of casino space once completed this summer. The gaming space will include more than 1,300 slot machines and 46 table games, and an attached 18-story hotel will have 395 guest rooms. Additional features include four dining options, a pool, a 900-seat entertainment venue and 2,500 square feet of meeting space.

New Orleans
The Buffet at Harrah's New Orleans completed a $3 million modernization and now sports a new bar, a refurbished dessert display and a revamped food line. Technological improvements include an electronic signage display. The restaurant can seat up to 370 and includes the 50-seat Manor Room for private dining. The 450-room property has 43,000 square feet of meeting space. -- MICHAEL C. LOWE

LAS VEGASIn the heart of the Strip, the former Imperial Palace has been rebranded as the Quad Resort & Casino. The 2,545-room property should complete renovations late this year. Already wrapped up are a new front desk and bell desk, as well as a new main entrance and porte cochere on the north side of the building. Nearly complete is the expanded casino, which is growing by 15,000 square feet, to 35,000 square feet. Approximately 30,000 square feet of additional gaming space, with a central bar, will debut toward the end of this year.

The city's second observation wheel, the 500-foot Skyvue, is on schedule to open in early 2014 across from Mandalay Bay on the Strip's south end. That attraction will make its 24- and 32-person gondolas available for group events. A new 21,000-square-foot convention center and 140,000 square feet of retail space will debut at the site as well. -- MICHAEL J. SHAPIRO

PENNSYLVANIAPennsylvania's gaming revenue continues to grow. The commonwealth's 11 casinos generated nearly $3.2 billion from table games and slots in 2012, the highest take yet, and a 4.4 percent increase over 2011. The $60.4 million generated by table games alone in December 2012 was the second-highest-grossing month since the games were legalized in 2010.

Table-game revenue growth is increasingly outpacing that of slot machines. Slot revenues were up only 2.7 percent, year-over-year, for 2012, and then fell by 1 percent in January of this year and plummeted by 9 percent in February. Table-game revenues, meanwhile, rose by 12 percent in January.

Licensing continues to be quite competitive. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board heard presentations in February from six applicants for Philadelphia's second casino license, available because its original owner, Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia, lost it in 2010 for not developing its proposed casino.

Among the applicants is Steve Wynn, whose $900 million, all-suites Wynn Philadelphia would cover about 70 acres in the Fishtown neighborhood. Another, PHL Local Gaming LLC, has proposed the $420 million Casino Revolution, to be built in South Philadelphia. That project would include a 250-room four-star hotel, 2,400 slot machines, 105 table games, an Italian restaurant, a steak house, a coffee bar, a 300-seat buffet and a covered parking garage. According to PHL Local Gaming, Casino Revolution has an expedited opening plan that would see the venue debut within nine months of gaining approval.

Among other possibilities is an ambitious $480 million plan from Penn National Gaming, in which a nonprofit would own two-thirds of a new casino and dedicate two-thirds of its revenue to the city's school district and pension plan. The South Philadelphia attraction would be called Hollywood Casino Philadelphia.

The Gaming Control Board will host public-input hearings this month and next, and conduct background investigations and sustainability hearings before reaching any decisions. According to a board spokesperson, the license could be issued by this coming fall or winter.

In February, the board authorized the Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort to run table games. The casino will have 600 slot machines and 28 table games, as well as a restaurant and lounge, when it opens this summer at the luxury destination in Fayette County, Pa. The casino will be integrated into the overall resort, which covers 2,000 acres in Southwestern Pennsylvania and offers six lodging options for a total of 318 rooms. Two 18-hole golf courses are on-site, as well as a spa, a fitness center, six swimming pools, an equestrian trail, an off-road driving academy, a wildlife habitat and other outdoor-activity facilities. The resort's 32,000-square-foot Executive Conference Center offers 25 meeting rooms, a 200-seat lecture hall, two ballrooms and exhibit space.

Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, Pa., broke ground last month on a $5 million luxury indoor/outdoor pool complex. The 11,000-square foot, four-season pool will allow guests to swim from indoors to outside. Surrounding the pool will be a bar and lounge area with private luxury cabanas. The outdoor deck will have table-side fire pits and views of the lake and golf course. The resort, which is 75 miles from New York City, has 188 guest rooms and a conference center with a total of 5,764 square feet of meeting space.

Last summer, construction began on a 238-room hotel and a 20,000-square-foot convention center at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The Plains, Pa., casino's owners intend to add a fitness center, an indoor pool and a bistro as part of the hotel. The Convention Center at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs will accommodate up to 1,600 people for a meeting or 800 for a banquet, and it will be able to convert into a 1,500-seat concert venue. The new facilities are expected to debut by this fall. The casino currently offers 82,000 square feet of gaming space, live harness racing and a number of dining, entertainment and retail venues.

Last spring, the Valley Forge Casino Resort opened its $150 million casino, adding gaming to the 486-room, Southeastern Pennsylvania property. The resort has 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, a fitness center and spa, 600 slot machines and 50 table games. Five restaurants and a nightclub are on-site as well.

A new 100-room hotel, the Baymont Inn and Suites, is under construction adjacent to Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pa. MTR Gaming Group, which owns and operates the casino, will manage and operate the Wyndham Hotel Group property, which is slated to open sometime this spring.

Rivers Casino, in Pittsburgh's North Shore neighborhood, wrapped up renovations at the end of 2012. The 30-table poker room was remodeled and now has a glass wall to eliminate noise from the casino floor. The High Limit area was redesigned as well, providing an enhanced riverfront view and better amenities to high rollers. And the Grand View Buffet and Levels Bar received makeovers as well. The property offers eight restaurant and nightlife options, as well as a 10,000-square-foot banquet room and 1,000-seat amphitheater. Rivers has nearly 130,000 square feet of gaming space.

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, just south of Pittsburgh in Washington, Pa., wrapped up a $25 million expansion last year. The facility added a new parking garage, improved road access and purchased an adjacent property for a retail development. Early this year the venue debuted several more improvements, including new carpeting and a redesign of the High Limit Slots and The Clubhouse. The venue, owned by Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts, has more than 80 table games, 3,300 slot machines, a racetrack and a bowling alley. A banquet room can accommodate up to 100 guests for a seated dinner and 110 attendees for a reception. -- M.J.S.

Last August, the 398-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village, Nev., wrapped up a $20 million renovation. All guest rooms, the Sierra Café and the Spa Terrace Conference Center were made over to reflect a "Grand Lodge-style" theme. The conference center spruced up all seven of its meeting rooms, as well as the 3,000-square-foot ballroom.

At the 1,710-room Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nev., 2013 will bring about $6 million worth of renovations and upgrades. Last month, a new Starbucks debuted on the main casino floor, while this month, a new Hussong's Cantina-Taqueria will open, serving classic Mexican food in a trendy setting. The resort's Café Sedona will get a complete makeover -- and a new name -- later this year. A new nightspot, the Aura Ultra Lounge, opened last year. -- M.J.S.