Golden Gulf Dredges Proposed Casino Basin

What was a weed field is now a proposed casino basin. The pool of water is just a couple of car lengths from Back Bay Boulevard.

"That's where it's always been planned," Golden Gulf attorney Mike Cavanaugh said. "The location of this basin predates the location of Back Bay Boulevard."

Golden Gulf developers had until December to dredge their back bay property before environmental permits expired. So over the weekend, excavation equipment dug the rectangle hole that could become the casino's inland home.

"This basin as you see it today has been permitted exactly where it is, exactly how it is for over 10 years," said Cavanaugh.

This project was the one that caught Secretary of State Eric Clark's attention. Over the summer, he questioned whether a casino should be built, if it wasn't on publicly held tidelands. Clark set up a committee to study the issue. Last week, he met with that committee and reiterated his desire to save Mississippi's six million dollar tidelands fund, and somehow protect its casinos.

"I think we can do as much protection as can reasonably be done, while still living by the rules that the citizens voted for back in the 90s," the Secretary of State said, "that is to have casinos on the tidelands and also to protect the tidelands funds, which has done so much good for the gulf coast."

Golden Gulf recently hired a geologist to analyze the basin area it just dredged. Preliminary findings determined that 95% of the site was once underwater. Developers argue that makes the site eligible for a tidelands lease -- and gaming commission approval.

Golden Gulf's proposed casino site is about 200 feet south of the back bay shoreline. The gaming commission once approved that location. But developers must get the state's okay again, before casino construction dirt replaces the mud that got dredged out this weekend.