Casino developers testing onshore gaming changes

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, June 26, 2008

Developers of the Gold Coast casino in Biloxi are asking the Mississippi Gaming Commission to approve a definition of the mean high tide water line that will make their inland casino site legal.

Mississippi has allowed casinos since the early 1990s, but the original law limited the state-regulated gambling houses to the waters of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The casinos were built on hulking dockside barges.

After Hurricane Katrina severely damaged some of the coastal casinos in 2005, the state law was changed to let the Gulf Coast casinos build 800 feet onshore.

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RW Development, led by Ray Wooldridge, owner of the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, is building the South Beach Biloxi, a 326-unit condominium and other facilities, including the proposed Gold Coast casino. The casino location is on Veterans Avenue, north of U.S. Highway 90 in Biloxi.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission will hear a discussion of the proposal during a July 17 meeting in Biloxi.

RW Development wants the commission to find its casino site legal. It is the first test of the 2005 law.

RW Development argues that a strip of public beach between its property south of U.S. 90 and the shoreline is at the mean high tide. Because of that, RW Development argues the property north of U.S. 90 is a legal casino site.

RW Development has said its completed project — condos, a hotel, shops and the casino — would generate more than $24 million annually in taxes for Biloxi and its schools.

The Biloxi Planning Commission approved the RW Development project in March and the city approved zoning variances necessary for the project in April.