In a landmark decision that marks the culmination of a decade and a half of determined efforts and legal skirmishes, a persistent vision for a casino resort in Biloxi has finally crystallized into tangible reality. The Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) has greenlit a proposal for a casino, laying the foundation for future economic growth and an invigorated tourism landscape.
The location, poised at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Veterans Avenue, has been an area of contention and hopeful planning for years. In a significant move this week, the MGC endorsed the site for casino development, setting a new precedent in Biloxi’s bustling gaming sector. This affirmative nod from the state’s gaming regulators breathes new life into RW Development’s aspirations, as well as that of local entrepreneur, Ray Woolridge, despite a chorus of opposition from the city’s established gaming establishments.
Affirmation from the MGC came with strategic strings attached. Commissioners stipulated the approval stands for a three-year period during which RW Development is tasked with securing sufficient financial backing, finalizing design plans, and obtaining the requisite approvals to move forward. Moreover, this site endorsement is anchored to RW Development; any change of hands would necessitate a fresh round of MGC approval.
The terms of development also stipulate civic contributions; notably, RW Development has been charged with the construction of an over $3 million barrier-free pier, to be maintained indefinitely. Equally pivotal, state regulations demand the forthcoming casino’s gaming operations remain ensconced within 800 feet of the mean high-water line, ensuring compliance with Mississippi gaming statutes.
The journey to this milestone has been arduous for Woolridge, punctuated by legalities and setbacks. Starting in July 2008, Woolridge’s vision was initially denied fulfillment due to noncompliance with the state’s coastal gaming rules. Subsequent appeals did little to turn the tide until an agreement was reached for the development of a public pier via a lease arrangement, altering the geographic desirability of the site.
Mississippi’s own Attorney General, Lynn Fitch, sought legally to block the city of Biloxi from contracting RW Development, citing the lack of tidelands lease for the property, but the state’s highest court asserted Biloxi’s authority, paving the way for Woolridge’s current success.
However, incumbents in the local casino market stood in firm opposition, arguing that despite the MGC’s approval, the proposed site did not tick all the boxes of state gaming qualifications — a view not shared by the commission. Amidst accusations of aversion to competition, RW Development and Woolridge have surged ahead with renewed vigor and a secured opportunity to revitalize Biloxi’s gaming and entertainment tableau.
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