Secretary of State, Seawall Both Obstacles Blocking Treasure Bay Expansion

Secretary of State Eric Clark says Treasure Bay is behind on its tidelands payments. So he won't go over a new tidelands lease for the project until the $625,000 is paid. "No prudent trustee or owner would consider a new lease to a tenant under these circumstances," he wrote in a news release.

Treasure Bay's 50 expansion plan includes demolishing and then rebuilding the seawall near Camelia Street. Company president Bernie Burkholder walked out to that spot in his east parking lot. He said that's where he'd like his casino to dock. "To be competitive in this market, I need to add hotels, I need to add parking garages, just like other casinos have," he said.

The new location would allow Treasure Bay to add those amenities.

It would also shield the casino from the kinds of storms that nearly sank the pirate ship casino. According to Burkholder, "We are providing substantially improved protection from storm surges."

Treasure Bay wants to float its casino in a land-locked water basin. Burkholder said the parking lot it would dig up would simply return the site to its original look. "Everything south of the seawall used to be water. It's filled tidelands," he said.

The seawall Burkholder mentioned runs to the front of Treasure Bay's property. And then it disappears under the parking lot. So, to make this relocation project work, Treasure Bay needs Harrison County supervisors' permission to break through a section of the seawall. "When we get done, this seawall is going to be much, much stronger, and everybody is going to be more protected," Burkholder said. "Plus, it's going to cost the taxpayers less money. And that is a win-win in my book."

Even if Treasure Bay gets Harrison County's okay, the relocation project isn't a done deal. Biloxi's recently adopted height restrictions cover the new site. So the ship can't move, unless its masts are removed, or the company gets a variance. Treasure Bay also has to resolve a lease dispute with its current landlord.