Mississippi Gaming Commission considering site approval requests

Mississippi Gaming Commission considering site approval requests

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Two long talked about casino projects will roll the dice with a new state gaming commission.

On Thursday, the Mississippi Gaming Commission agreed to consider gaming site approval requests in February. Proposals will be accepted from RW Development's South Beach project in Biloxi, and Jacobs Entertainment Diamondhead.

Both projects have been rejected in the past.

RW Development attorney Michael Cavanaugh says when the South Beach project was denied in 2008, the commission said RW Development did not have control of land to the water's edge. However, gaming laws only require control of land at the mean high water line, not the shoreline.

"There is significant legal precedent," Cavanaugh said, explaining that the mean high water line and the shoreline are not the same in each case.

That distinction may be key to the South Beach project.

"I'm pretty certain in my mind of where it is and it's pretty evident where prior commissioners thought it was," said Gaming Commission Chairman Allen Godfrey. "I would say it's where the water meets the sand."

According to Cavanaugh, plans for a casino resort at Veterans Avenue and U.S. 90 in Biloxi have not changed significantly. But, gaming commission members have, and developers hope the new commission will agree that RW has a legal site.

Leaders in Diamondhead will be watching the commission's action as well. Mayor Tommy Schafer says site approval is just the first step for any project.

"Without site approval, the Diamondhead City Council doesn't even get a chance to look at what a project could become," Schafer said.

Schafer admits there's some opposition to the idea of a casino in Diamondhead. Even so, he believes the council should have an opportunity to review a proposal.

"The city of Diamondhead should enjoy the same economic opportunities as other cities that have chosen to provide space for casinos," Schafer said.

A special public hearing on the two projects will follow the regular monthly meeting of the Mississippi Gaming Commission to give developers and citizens a chance to discuss the merits of the proposed projects. The meeting will be held on the Coast on Feb. 16 at 9 a.m.; a location has not been determined.

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved