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Moon over Neshoba County

By Staff
INSIDE – Hundreds of people flocked Monday to the gambling floor of the Golden Moon Hotel &Casino to try their luck at the table games or the slot machines. The casino opened to the public on Monday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Aug. 27, 2002
PHILADELPHIA With a firm grip on a flimsy plastic bucket holding $200 in gold tokens, Beatrice Winstead paced around the 90,000-square-foot casino Monday looking for the booth to cash her winnings.
The Golden Moon Hotel &Casino had been open a few minutes, but Winstead already found herself in the middle of a crowded floor with flashing slot machines and hundreds of people.
Winstead joined hundreds of other gamblers and visitors who turned out Monday to be among the first patrons at the $177 million casino, across Highway 16 from the 8-year-old Silver Star Hotel &Casino.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which owns and operates the state's only land-based casinos, called it a "soft opening." The Choctaws have set the official opening for Oct. 4.
Workers continue training
Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin said resort officials will use the next month to work out kinks and continue to train its workers.
The Golden Moon is the latest addition to the Choctaws' Pearl River Resort a complex that also includes the Silver Star, the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club and the recently opened Geyser Falls water park.
The Golden Moon, however, is the crown jewel.
The 28-story hotel and casino includes 1,750 slot machines, six eateries, a sports bar, several lounges and an observation deck more than 300 feet above the ground that offers views the entire resort.
Casino employs thousands
The casino employs more than 2,000 people, some from as far away as 100 miles. Many of the workers help maintain the more than 20 hotel floors with 571 rooms and suites.
James and Helen Bailey of Birmingham, Ala., checked into one of the Golden Moon's hotel rooms within minutes of the casino's opening. They paid $59 for a standard room on the third floor.
And both said that they got their money's worth.
The room was fittingly decorated with gold moons on the floors and walls. It also included an inside window with a view of the bathroom.
Gamblers can't wait
Back downstairs on the gambling floor, Beatrice Winstead continued to marvel at the casino.
As soon as it opened at about 11 a.m., Winstead and other gamblers raced through the large double-glass doors and flocked to the table games and slot machines.
Forget about the restaurants and coffee shop people came to gamble. Some waited for hours in stalled traffic along Highway 16, from Highway 15 to the casino about four miles away.
When they arrived, some gamblers were so eager to try their luck that they nearly knocked down others to get through the doors after the ribbon-cutting.
Winstead was playing the dollar slot machines when she won $200 on her second pull.