Casinos Must Pay Tidelands Leases - - The News for South Mississippi


Casinos Must Pay Tidelands Leases

From a taxpayer's point of view, the tidelands ruling means the Secretary of State will keep collecting rent from casino tidelands leases. And that money will be used to enhance boat ramps, docks, and piers.

From the casinos' perspective, the ruling is a tax payment setback.

The Imperial Palace garage was the focal point of Chancellor Donald Patterson's ruling. The garage was built on a section of the back bay that had been filled in decades earlier. The legal question was how much of that land should be considered tidelands -- and therefore, require a tidelands lease.

According to attorneys, the chancellor determined 2.7 acres -- roughly from the Imperial Palace porte cachere to the northern tip of the garage should be charged tidelands fees. Imperial Palace attorney Britt Singletary said the decision could cost the casino close to a million dollars -- depending on how a land assessment turns out.

Singletary also said his client was disappointed by the size of the ruling. He thought the tidelands lease should cover less than an acre of the filled in area.

The Secretary of State was much more excited by the decision. In a news release, Eric Clark said, "The Court has affirmed that the tidelands are public property and that the people have a right to collect rent for the use of their land."

Treasure Bay's tidelands complaint was consolidated into this case. But most of its arguments weren't part of this ruling.

"While we are disappointed with his ruling," Treasure Bay CEO Bernie Burkholder said, "we will respectfully abide by the Chancellor's decision."

Treasure Bay will be a bigger part of the next phase of this tidelands fight. The casino will go to court and argue that the Secretary of State's tidelands lease formula isn't fair. The casino doesn't think it should pay more for its tidelands payments than non-casino companies.

by Brad Kessie

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