LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach officials feel if proposed changes by the Mississippi Gaming Commission go forward, their city's chances to land a casino are slim. The board of aldermen voted to send the commission a letter voicing its objection to requiring casino projects to include a 300-room or more four-star hotel.
Jeff Davis Avenue has long been the economic heartbeat of Long Beach. Alderman Ronnie Hammons would like to see the tax base grow, but he says options are limited.
"As you look at the city of Long Beach, we don't have any area for industry. We're not going to be getting any car lots. We're not going to be getting any Nissan manufacturing plants, that I can foresee," said Hammons. "Our Highway 90 is our best bet to try to capitalize on tourism because the people are traveling it back and forth to the casinos, so we need to capitalize as well and draw some of that income."
In preparing for the possibility of one day cashing in on that income, years ago the city zoned some land on Highway 90 for gaming. However, the Mississippi Gaming Commission is looking at new regulations that Long Beach leaders see as unfair to smaller cities.
"When you're talking 300 rooms, you're talking a really large development, large project," Mayor Billy Skellie said. "It would just about shoot all of those down, the smaller venues."
The board said a better solution is to look at proposed projects individually.
"It should be city size dependant, not blanket for every city along the coast," said Alderman Kaye Couvillion. "We're not as large as some of the bigger cities. We can't house large structures in our cities. The chance of us getting someone who can put that in, would they come to Long Beach because we don't have the square footage maybe to accommodate it?"
The Long Beach Board of Aldermen also voted to rezone the harbor as waterfront. The mayor said the change is necessary because any casino would be required by law to have water access. However, as to whether this means a casino could ever go into the harbor stirred lots of debate. Two aldermen abstained from the vote.
"I couldn't possibly see how it could possibly be one," Mayor Skellie said. "We don't want one, number one. And the Gaming Commission, the Secretary of State, they all look at that. Number two, there's not enough land to do anything down there except what we do. It's more for the public, for restaurants and boating."
"We are making that open to gaming by right,"said Couvillion. "The residents have not had an opinion if they would like to see gaming in the harbor because they haven't seen this change. It happened tonight after a public hearing. "
The waterfront zoning change was part of a comprehensive zoning map the board passed.