Gaming Commission Approves $900M Casino Resort Project

The Mississippi Gaming Commission gave its approval Wednesday to three new casino projects, including the proposed $900 million Myriad Botanical Resort in Tunica County.

The 540-acre resort would become the largest gaming destination in Mississippi and could mean 3,000 new jobs for the Delta county.

The commission acted Wednesday on site and development plans. Financing matters will be reviewed later. Officials with the three casinos said afterward they were pleased with the board's prompt action.

The commission also approved the site of Bali-Hai Casino & Resort outside of Greenville and site and development plans for Silver Slipper Gaming Hall & Saloon in Hancock County.

The Myriad resort would include an 80,000-square-foot casino with 2,000 slot machines and 90 table games, a 1,200-room hotel, a convention center, botanical gardens, an 5-acre water park and an indoor golf course.

"A climate controlled golf course could be quite a plus for Mississippi; we heard that summer greens fees actually drop by half in the morning because the afternoons are so hot,'' Myriad spokesman Fred Hayne said following the board action.

Developers are also considering the addition of a snow park with manufactured snow, targets for snowballs and a sledding hill.

"We've not seen a development as large as this since gaming has been legalized, and the casino is such a small part of the plans,'' said Larry Gregory, executive director of the state Gaming Commission.

"That's what we've been working toward instead of so much focus on the casino.''

Grand Casino Tunica is currently the largest gaming destination in Mississippi with a 140,000-square-foot casino with over 2,500 slot machines and 1,350 rooms. However, Grand Casino would have less acres and attractions than the Myriad resort.

The Myriad resort site is two miles south of Hollywood Casino and near the proposed Interstate 69 project, a new four-lane span that would run from the Canadian border in Michigan to the Mexican border in Texas.

If the project goes as planned, the hotel and casino are expected to open in the fall of 2006.

The proposal is the first casino venture of Myriad World Resorts, a Canadian company based in Edmonton, Alberta, said Fred Hayne, marketing director for Myriad World Resorts. Completion of the entire resort would take about four years, he said.

The company initially considered placing the resort in Canada, but Tunica County's growth as a destination resort influenced it to move the project to Mississippi, Hayne said.

Webster Franklin, who heads the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a stable gaming environment and Tunica's market, which has remained at $1.2 billion, helped attract Myriad. He said the county's investment in tourism also played a big part.

"We've just invested $75 million in the Tunica golf course, the river park and airport,'' Franklin said. "Private investors are now following our public investment in an effort to create a more well rounded destination.''

Employees to staff the casino would come from the Memphis area, which includes Tunica County, he said. Tunica County has about 10,000 residents.

With Wednesday's approval, Myriad developers will have two years to open the casino and hotel, Gregory said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)