Treasure Bay Relocation Stymied By Clark

Treasure Bay has a lawsuit pending against the Secretary of State. That suit questions the casino's tidelands lease payments.

Treasure Bay also has plans to move its barge to a safer spot on its property. Guess what -- it needs the Secretary of State's permission to move. And that won't happen with a lawsuit hanging over Mississippi.

"It's very frustrating," said Treasure Bay President Bernie Burkholder.

The casino filed the lawsuit to protest Treasure Bay's tidelands lease with the Secretary of State. Burkholder claims his casino is paying too much to dock in Mississippi waters.

"Tourism and the gaming industry are literally being stifled on the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of this problem," he said.

Eric Clark says that's not the case at all. He argues Treasure Bay owes $625,000 in back rent. That's why a spokesman for Clark said the Secretary of State "won't consider options about moving the barge until that issue is resolved."

Burkholder understands his casino's predicament.

"We are in our present location, until we have a settlement with this official," he said.

Treasure Bay wants to dig up a section of its parking lot and move closer to Highway 90, in part, because the new location would provide more of a buffer from hurricanes. Over the years, this casino has spent more than $30 million repairing hurricane damage.

Last September, Treasure Bay got approvals to move from every political entity except Secretary of State Clark. Today, Clark's representative said the Secretary of State will consider the move on it merits "after Treasure Bay pays the rent it owes."

So, a move that was supposed to be finished by this May still has no starting date. Burkholder has $20 million in the bank, waiting to be spent on Treasure Bay's move. If Treasure Bay ever gets the Secretary of State's okay, the project will take about six months to complete.