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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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A quarter century of Southern elegance at Beau Rivage

8 Apr 2024

By Gary Trask
As Beau Rivage Resort & Casino kicked off its 25th anniversary festivities last month, the sophisticated Southern belle is proving that age is just a number.

In the midst of a massive celebration that included a jaw-dropping 500-drone show lighting up the Mississippi Gulf Coast sky, “The Beau” – as it is affectionately known by locals – continues to reinvent itself while retaining its old-fashioned Southern charm, thanks to a recent $100 million multi-year “beautification project” that touched on everything from the guest rooms, to the casino floor and restaurants, to its spectacular amenity golf course, Fallen Oak.
The vision for this now iconic Biloxi property actually began on the Las Vegas Strip in the early 1990s when casino magnate Steve Wynn began work on a new resort called Beau Rivage, which in French means “beautiful shore.” But after a trip to Italy's Lake Como, Wynn scrapped those plans and instead built the Bellagio. Years later, Wynn resurrected the Beau Rivage concept, opening the $800 million casino resort on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1999 as the largest resort casino outside of Nevada.

The Beau's design and opulent lobby, complete with the signature scent of fresh flowers, closely mirrors that of its sister property in Las Vegas and is often referred to as “Mini Bellagio.”

Over the last quarter century there have certainly been plenty of highs and lows. Beau Rivage faced a significant setback in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. The resort underwent a $550 million renovation before reopening in 2006. Today, Beau Rivage remains Mississippi's tallest building and the largest private employer in Biloxi, with over 3,000 workers, 270 of whom have been with the property since Day 1.

So, there is great reason to celebrate and celebrate big this year as the Beau has overcome natural disasters, recessions and, of course, a global pandemic.

But it’s not a reach to say Beau Rivage is peaking as it blows out the cake for its 25th birthday.

The most notable enhancement at the resort was a $55 million room remodel that was completed in December. Each and every one of the 1,740 guest rooms have been redecorated with comfort and style in mind, featuring a Southern hue and coastal theme with guests resting their heads on the same mattresses that are found on the plush beds back in Las Vegas at Bellagio. In addition, 12 standard hotel rooms were transformed into six two-bay suites. Adding to the allure of the rooms are views of the Mississippi Gulf Coast or the scenic Biloxi Back Bay.

“This much-anticipated room remodel reflects our commitment to keeping the Beau Rivage experience fresh and welcoming for our guests,” said MGM Resorts Southeast Group President and COO Brandon Dardeau, a Louisiana native who welcomed the chance to come back to the south from Las Vegas in 2022 and take hold of the reigns at Beau Rivage.

Added MGM Resorts Design & Development Vice President of Interior Design Nicole Fournier, “We are hoping guests will feel the comfort of Southern hospitality with an unexpected splash of Las Vegas exuberance.”

More recently, the resort also unveiled a new smoke-free poker room and a revamped buffet.

The Poker Room, which annually hosts the Beau Rivage Heater Poker Tournament, has been moved next to the popular Buffalo Zone slot machine space and while it’s still semi-secluded it does have a more “open space” design, offering 12 tables, new furnishing, a four-window cashier’s cage, and a dozen 65-inch and larger HDTVs.

“Poker now has a permanent home that is closer to the casino entrance,” Poker Room Manager Adam Nash. “Our new state-of-the art poker room is part of a larger-scale multi-million-dollar project, and was definitely worth the wait.”

Next to the poker room sits The Buffet at Beau Rivage, which has undergone a fresh, contemporary redesign that complements the resort's original brick, tile and copper motif. The relocation of the salad bar has improved the buffet's overall layout, creating a more open and inviting floorplan, and also features a new ice cream station. More live cooking stations, including a Mongolian grill and a waffle area, have been incorporated, allowing guests to see their meals being prepared fresh.

What hasn’t changed is that The Buffet remains the best place on the coast for classic Seafood Gumbo. No surprise since you really can’t go wrong no matter where you decide to eat at Beau Rivage, which also features a world-class steakhouse, BR Prime, and recently unveiled the new Salt & Ivy, situated just inside the stately casino entrance where diners can bask in the natural light of the sunlit solarium and choose from an outstanding menu of classic New Orleans cocktails (my favorite was Pimm’s Cup, made with Pimm’s No. 1, lemonade, lime soda and cucumber). If you’re a regular visitor to Las Vegas and the restaurant name sounds familiar, it’s because there is a Salt & Ivy at Aria Resort & Casino.

As part of Beau Rivage's anniversary celebration, the resort revived its original craft beer, the Biloxi Blonde Kolsch, the brainchild of Coast Brewing Company, Mississippi's first craft brewery. There’s no better place to try the light-bodied ale than at the BetMGM Book Bar and Grill, which accepted the state’s first legal sports bet back in August of 2018, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the federal ban on sports wagering as unconstitutional, opening the door for legal and regulated sports betting across the U.S.

Meanwhile, about 20 miles north of the resort in the DeSoto Forest, sits the pristine Fallen Oak, regularly ranked as the second-best casino golf course in the nation behind its MGM Resorts sibling, Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. This Tom Fazio-designed gem is exclusively accessible to guests of the Beau and provides an unforgettable experience that includes a chauffeured limo ride, full locker room service, and access to an amazing practice facility. There’s also the renowned 19th Hole, where you can sit at the sunken down bar and gaze at panoramic views of the 18th hole where the actual “fallen oak” lays just off the fairway.

As part of the resort’s recent renovation project, the course, which has hosted numerous PGA Champions Tour events over the years, saw all of its cart paths replaced and 10 wooden bridges reconstructed, while new sand was incorporated into the bunkers. Climate control with air conditioning and heating were added to all of Fallen Oak’s rest areas and on the driving range players are treated to music played from new solar powered speakers.

“It’s a special place that just keeps getting better because we always try to do the little things that make the experience more and more unforgettable,” Director of Golf Mark Powell told me as we sat in the 19th Hole following a recent round while I sipped on a legendary Fallen Oak Bloody Mary, which is concocted with house-infused vodka steeped for exactly six days with an array of garlic, herbs, tomatoes, and spices.

“And the same can be said for Beau Rivage. Things like the new guest rooms and restaurants are what gets the headlines, but the subtle customer service things that you don’t see at most resorts is really what keeps people coming back.”

During an anniversary event last month that honored its employees, Dardeau echoed Powell’s remarks, expressing his admiration for the resilience of the property and its employees, which he sees as emblematic of the spirit of the coast and the state.

"The property is better today than it’s ever been," Dardeau said with a big smile.
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