Gulfport mayor critical of proposed casino sites

Gulfport mayor critical of proposed casino sites

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Thursday, the Mississippi Gaming Commission will decide whether proposed casino locations in Biloxi and Diamondhead are legal gaming sites.

After last month's commission meeting, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes wrote a letter to commissioners voicing strong opposition to the gaming sites.

Hewes said their approval could change the character of the coast by opening the floodgates to unwanted casino development.

The main question the gaming commission is considering is where casinos must be built in relation to the waterfront. Under current state law, casino developers must have control of the land down to the mean high water line.

The group looking to develop a casino at the corner of Hwy. 90 and Veterans Ave. in Biloxi, RW Development, claims that boundary sits at the seawall, because that's where the waterline was before the Harrison County sand beach was built.

Jacobs Entertainment makes a similar assertion regarding its proposed gaming site in Diamondhead, which lies south of the interstate and west of the old yacht club. There is no sea wall there, but the group says the project's footprint would sit within 800 feet of the Bay of St. Louis, and that would comply with state law.

"The experts say it is, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Marine Resources. The guy who drew the maps and the Secretary of State who wrote the book all say that is the bay. It's the high tide water line, it's a legal site," said David Grunenwald, with Jacobs Entertainment, in a previous interview with WLOX News Now.

Gaming Commission Chairman Allen Godfrey said he agrees with the rulings of previous commissioners on the issue. Both proposals have been rejected in the past.

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

In his letter, Hewes says these new proposals "run contrary to legislative and public intent" and would open the door to sites never intended for gaming purposes.

"Do not be swayed by old assertions, which have been tested and found lacking," Hewes said in the letter. "Your predecessors showed great foresight and have left you on solid footing with grounds for rejection of what otherwise would be a violation of precedent."

You can read Hewes full letter to the Mississippi Gaming Commission here:

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