Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, saying that the sand beach has been and should continue to be a defining factor regarding where casinos should be located, today vetoed a measure that would have opened the door to gaming on a 30-acre tract of beachfront land in east Biloxi.
Holloway's veto, which was delivered to City Council members this morning, acknowledged that the issue has had a polarizing impact on the city, with debate focused on where new casinos should and should not be located.
The mayor's veto message focused on four issues:
- that the city should continue to use the beach as a defining factor on where casinos should and should not be located,
- that the prospect of approving the Tivoli re-zoning would create pressure to open up the entire beachfront to the prospect of casino gaming,
- that Biloxi should maintain a level playing field for existing and new casinos,
- and opening up new areas of the front beach to casino development would have a detrimental impact on Back Bay, where the city has invested millions in infrastructure improvements and where unused land zoned for casino development exists.
The mayor said his vision for Biloxi includes an economically revitalized east Biloxi to balance the natural attraction we have always enjoyed with the sand beach.
"As I've said on numerous occasions before and since Katrina," Holloway concluded, "it is important that we strike a good balance between land zoned for casinos and land zoned for other uses.
"It's a difficult decision to veto a proposal that could have seen a billion-dollar-plus investment in our city, but this decision affects the entire city, and I must do what I believe is best for the city as a whole."
The Biloxi City Council had approved the re-zoning during a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Voting for the measure were Councilmembers Mike Fitzpatrick, Charles T. Harrison Jr., William "Bill" Stallworth and Council President Edward "Ed" Gemmill. Voting against the re-zoning were Councilmembers George Lawrence, David Fayard and Tom Wall.
Holloway's veto was delivered five working days after he received the ordinance from the Clerk of Council, and well within the deadline of 10 working days for his response.