On Thursday evening, Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) opened the doors to its brand-new $600 million South Coast Hotel and Casino, a locals casino situated on 60 acres south of the Las Vegas Strip. The company boasts that the casino, located just off of Interstate 15, will be the first one visitors coming from Southern California see as they enter Las Vegas.

The casino features more than 2,400 slot machines and 60 table games on 80,000 square feet of gaming space. The hotel has 650 rooms, with a second tower on the way next year that will bring that total to 1,350. In addition, the property features a 16-screen movie theater, a 64-lane bowling alley, and an equestrian center to further differentiate it from the competition.

The South Coast -- acquired along with Michael Gaughan's Coast Casinos in a $1.3 billion deal that closed July 1, 2004 -- certainly upgrades the quality of Boyd's portfolio of Las Vegas locals casinos, which includes The Orleans (one of my favorites), Sam's Town, Suncoast, and a collection of downtown properties.

Rival Station Casinos (NYSE:STN) opens its highly anticipated $450 million-plus Red Rock Station casino early next year, and on Tuesday announced a deal with The Greenspun Corporation to develop Aliante Station in the 1,905-acre Aliante community in North Las Vegas.

Caesars opens Strip's largest poker room
Live-action poker is back at Harrah's Entertainment's (NYSE:HET) Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, and in a big way. This week, Caesars opened an 8,500-square-foot poker room with 30 tables, with an additional 6,000 square feet of adjacent space that will hold up to 33 tables for tournament use.

The 63 total tables and more than 14,500 square feet of space make Caesars' poker room the largest on the Strip. It also gives Harrah's a premier venue for high-stakes tournaments. Caesars has already hosted the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions (TOC) -- to be aired Saturday on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN -- and next year will host the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC.

Caesars' new poker room is just the latest in a string of poker room openings at large Strip properties. In March, MGMMirage (NYSE:MGM) opened a new 23-table poker room at the MGM Grand, and in April opened a remodeled and expanded 40-table poker room at the Bellagio.

Harrah's to sell Gulfport property
Harrah's is committed to rebuilding along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but its plans won't include its Gulfport property. The company said on Tuesday that it had agreed to sell its Gulfport "assets" -- including the Grand Casino destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and two hotels -- to GulfsideCasino Partnership.

Gulfside will acquire the assets "as is" for an undisclosed amount, while Harrah's will keep the insurance proceeds. Gulfside had operated the Copa Casino Gulfport, which Hurricane Katrina also destroyed.

And rather than rebuild both of its destroyed Gulf Coast casinos, Harrah's will instead focus on its Biloxi location, and will design and build a new "first-class resort" from scratch. In August, Harrah's announced that it would convert the Grand Casino Biloxi into a Horseshoe-branded property. That said, it is likely that the new casino will also carry the Horseshoe brand.

Illinois revokes 10th gaming license
On Tuesday, the five-member Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously to revoke bankrupt Emerald Casino's dormant casino license. Emerald had shut down its casino in 1997, and eventually tried to relocate to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont. That casino was projected to be the state's largest and highest-yielding casino. However, the Gaming Board blocked the casino's opening in 2001 because of allegations that some of the investors had mob ties.

In 2003, Emerald was granted the ability to auction its license. And in March 2004, Isle of Capri (NASDAQ:ISLE) "won" the auction with a $518 million bid and a plan to build a casino also in Rosemont, near O'Hare Airport. Yet Isle never obtained the license - nor Emerald the auction money -- due to concerns over Isle's own financial health, as well as more allegations in Rosemont.

What Tuesday's action means is that Emerald no longer controls the license, and the state may try to move forward and re-auction the license -- but with Isle of Capri and the city of Rosemont likely out of contention. However, Emerald's investors will likely appeal the board's revocation and tie the case up in litigation for the foreseeable future.

Pittsburgh power play
On Wednesday, Isle of Capri made the news in a positive way when it announced a partnership with hockey star Mario Lemieux's LemieuxGroup LP. The partnership will try to pursue Pennsylvania's lone slot parlor license allocated for Pittsburgh, along with developing a multipurpose arena downtown.

The partnership might give Isle a competitive advantage over rival license bidder Boyd Gaming, among others. Lemieux Group owns the Pittsburgh Penguins National Hockey League franchise, which has struggled financially recently. The franchise got a big boost in the summer with the arrival of Canadian star Sidney Crosby via the draft, which immediately boosted ticket and merchandise sales, while also attracting top free agents.

A new arena would go a long way toward securing the Penguins' financial future.

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Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns none of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.