Biloxi Gambles On A Casino In A Hole

Think about the fish that could get away if Wes Dedeaux's spot on Biloxi's back bay became the northern tip of the Golden Gulf casino resort. "I guess I hope they don't put it over here (on the shoreline), because I've had some good times over here," the Biloxi fisherman said.

The proposed casino wouldn't actually float on the bay. It would sit in a manmade hole near Back Bay Boulevard and Crawford Street. The casino would be less than a block from Dan McEldowny's home. "I strongly oppose the inland barge casino thing," McEldowny told the Biloxi City Council.

For weeks, the council listened to debate about whether the casino basin concept should be adopted. It was finally time to vote on the request.

Councilman George Lawrence defiantly called the project land based gambling. He argued that the concept could sink future development in Biloxi.

But Mike Fitzpatrick said Biloxi had every right to approve a casino basin design. "That's all we're doing today, approving the master plan," Fitzpatrick said. "Let them go forward. It may or may not become an approved gaming site. That's not our determination."

The 3-2 decision gave Golden Gulf the approval it needed to go to the gaming commission and get it to okay the casino basin site. Fitzpatrick, Tom Wall, and Eric Dickey supported the project. "I feel very safe that we're not doing something that's going to cause any new gaming regulations," said Wall.

Lawrence and David Fayard voted against it. Charles Harrison had a conflict of interest, so he didn't vote. And Biloxi ward three didn't have a vote, because Jim Compton's vacancy hasn't been filled yet. Before he left Biloxi, Compton was on record against the Golden Gulf project.

Previous developers initially pitched the Golden Gulf idea a decade ago. So the new team already has most of the permits required to build the casino basin.

Wes Dedeaux is hoping the gaming commission takes the bait. "I would rather put it in the hole across the street," he said, as he grabbed his fishing pole, and cast his line out into the bay. "I like fishing here."

Biloxi's approval came despite the fact that a committee set up by the Secretary of State has just started analyzing whether casino basins are the best way to protect the industry, and the state tidelands fund.

The committee met three hours before the council vote. It heard from a Louisiana company that builds cement barges. Company representatives said a cement structure floating in the water could extend the life of a casino from 15 years to 60 years.

Wear and tear on casino barges is one of the big concerns facing gaming executives in South Mississippi.