Biloxi Casino Site Has Been Stopped for 15 Years Gains Site Approval

Published date: 24 December 2023, 01:53h.

Last update date: December 23, 2023, 04:02.

The Biloxi casino resort, which has opened four times in the last 15 years, has finally received site approval from the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC).

Biloxi casino Mississippi Gaming Commission
Southeast corner of Beach Boulevard. and Veterans Ave., approved for casino gaming in Biloxi. The Mississippi Gaming Commission this week issued its support for casino gambling on the property. (Image: Google)

State gaming regulators last Thursday gave their approval to RW Development and local businessman Ray Woolridge despite strong opposition from the city’s existing casinos. MGC has granted site approval for a casino on RW Development property on Veterans Boulevard at Beach Boulevard (U.S. Highway 90).

Commission members approved the site with several conditions. Approval is for three years; meaning RW Development will need to secure financing and complete and approve its design within that timeframe. Site approval cannot then be transferred to another company without MGC approval.

RW Development is also required to build and maintain a handicap-accessible pier, a project expected to cost more than $3 million. As for the casino, the gaming area must remain 800 feet from the mean high water line, as required by state gambling laws.

Scaffolding Rentals Turn the Tide

Woolridge wants to replace the Big Play Entertainment Center with a casino resort. But over the years it has faced numerous legal challenges and opposition to the project.

Woolridge’s application was first denied in July 2008 because MGC concluded that his property did not meet legal and regulatory requirements requiring Gulf Coast casinos to remain 800 feet from the mean high water line. Woolridge was unable to appeal the issue, but the courts agreed that 800 feet begins where the mean high water meets the shore, not the end of the seawall.

Woolridge applied again in early 2017, after a new MGC was established. The project was rejected again and the objection was approved again. He submitted a new plan in June 2017, but the site was rejected for a third time.

RW Development sought approval for the fourth time this year after agreeing to build a public pier on behalf of the city through a lease.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch sued Biloxi, claiming it lacked authority to contract the project with RW Development because there was no tideland lease for the property. Mississippi owns the state’s tidal zones; These are lands that are covered and exposed by water every day as a result of the tides.

The state’s highest court ruled against Fitch in March of this year and said Biloxi had the authority to build the pier. This decision was critical for Woolridge because it gave him control of land at the southeast corner of Beach Blvd. With the road approaching the mean high water line, MGC signed off on approving the site for play.

Local Opposition

Representatives of some of Biloxi’s eight existing casinos have expressed opposition to approving the site for gaming. Michael Bruffey, deputy director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Gaming Association, which represents Gulf Coast casinos, said in a letter to gaming commissioners that the property still does not meet state qualifications for gaming.

Bruffey cited the City of Biloxi’s lease with RW Development, which prohibits gaming on the actual pier.

“The language in the lease clearly states that the tenant will have the right to non-exclusive use and possession of the property and that the tenant will use the property for non-gaming purposes,” Bruffey said.

MGC disputed his claim.

“It seems like they don’t want additional competition,” Woolridge said. Biloxi Sun Herald.

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