BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Will property at the corner of Hwy. 90 and Veterans Ave. in Biloxi become a legal gaming site? That's the question state gaming commissioners are mulling over.
The RW Development property was rejected eight years ago by a previous gaming commission.
RW Development owner Ray Wooldridge was on hand as testimony began at D'Iberville City Hall. It was long and technical, with plenty of letters, charts, and maps. The final question is where does the high water line begin? At the seawall or the water's edge"
Attorneys for RW said state law clearly says the seawall, making this a legal site. That's the word from Gerald Blessey.
"We point out that a prior commission did approve the Broadwater at the same location towards the seawall, so there is precedent for a ruling like this," Blessey explained.
Opponents, including the state gaming and hospitality association, don't see it that way, especially after Hurricane Katrina when laws were changed to allow onshore casinos. Mike Bruffey is vice-president of the organization.
"To measure 800 feet from that point when a vessel couldn't be there before would be to be expanding gaming, which is not at all what the legislature intended in Jackson," Bruffey said. "There are plenty of legal gaming out there. This one was not legal prior to Katrina, and it shouldn't be legal now."
Elected officials also weighed in on the debate, most with a thumbs up for site approval. One of them was Harrison County Supervisor Beverly Martin.
"We're open to all businesses in Biloxi. We feel like the site is a legal site, but I'm not an attorney. That's for all of you to figure out," Martin told the commissioners.
The city council chambers in D'Iberville were packed full of political consultants and current and former gaming officials. Most had no comment about what transpired today, but one did. His name is Stan Flint, a governmental affairs consultant. He talked about how tough a decision this is going to be.
"The only thing that makes it different is a previous commission under a previous chairman violated the law. Now, they have to overcome a bad decision by the gaming commission and that's always tough," said Flint.
Legal or not, the clock is ticking, according to Blessey.
"That's our interpretation of the state law, and we'll await a decision," Blessey said.
No decision was reached Thursday. That will probably happen at the next gaming commission meeting on March 16.
None of the commissioners would comment about today's proceedings.