Gaming Regulators Prepare To Vote On Back Bay Boundary

Lester Quave owns one of D'Iberville's three waterfront homes immediately west of the I-110 bridge. Quave's back bay property is inside the zone where D'Iberville casinos may be allowed to dock.

The retiree would consider selling to a casino developer, if the price was right. "D'Iberville needs a casino," Quave said, "and I'd like to see it get one."

To help the city determine where back bay casinos should float, the Mississippi Gaming Commission spent months analyzing maps and listening to state leaders, military personnel, and other experts. They talked about how casinos west of I-110 could impact the environment, and Keesler Air Force base. "We've talked with our professionals," gaming commissioner Len Blackwell said. "I've been out and toured Keesler and talked with pilots. And we're going to do what it takes to protect those interests."

On the D'Iberville side of the back bay, the boundary under consideration extends 1,200 feet west of the I-110 bridge. Keesler has already told gaming regulators that a casino in that area can co-exist with its training mission. "They can work around that," Blackwell said, "so long as the other considerations with respect to height and lighting and all that are met."

If the gaming commission approves the new back bay boundary, any casino resort built west of I-110 can be no more than 170 feet above the ground. That way, it won't interfere with Kessler training flights.

But environmental attorney Reilly Morse said the back bay boundary extension is a gamble Mississippi shouldn't make. "If you leave an exception open when you draw a line like this," Morse said, "every lawyer worth his salt is going to find some way to poke a hole through it."

Morse told WLOX News that if the gaming commission adopts the back bay boundary, environmentalists would consider taking the issue to court.

by Brad Kessie