It’s been a year since Wind Creek Hospitality, the casino division of the the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, announced it had bought a casino site in D’Iberville and now the company has acquired more land and has a preliminary drawing for a casino there.
In March 2016, the company bought the Royal D’Iberville land, immediately west of Interstate 110, and since then has expanded the footprint on Back Bay in D’Iberville.
“We did acquire the Simon site, or a majority interest in it,” said Jay Dorris, chief executive officer of Wind Creek.
That site, where Las Vegas casino executive Peter Simon had proposed building West D’Iberville casino, is adjacent to the Royal D’Iberville land and gives the company 34 acres and two legal casino sites on Back Bay.
“We think it’s a great site,” said Arthur Mothershed, chief financial officer of Wind Creek. “We just want to make sure that whatever we do, we get it right.”
Market research and focus groups are in progress, Dorris said, before those results get translated into architectural designs. He said that could take about six months.
Mississippi Gaming Commission regulations require a minimum of 300 hotel rooms, at least a 40,000-square-foot casino floor, restaurants and something unique that will bring new people to South Mississippi.
When Wind Creek is ready to proceed, Dorris said, they want to have a plan for a casino “that’s going to offer something to the market that will help us grow the market and reflect the quality of Wind Creek Hospitality.”
Scarlet Pearl Casino was the first to open in D’Iberville in December 2015 and although Coast casino revenues were up on the Coast in 2016, Scarlet Pearl has cut into the profits of the Biloxi casinos across the bridge, according to Biloxi officials.
Wind Creek operates three casinos in Alabama, has a majority ownership in greyhound tracks in Mobile and in Pensacola, Florida, and has teamed with the Washoe Tribe to operate a casino in Nevada. Wind Creek also announced last year it was buying Margaritaville in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Dorris said instead of the casino in D’Iberville competing with its Alabama casinos, “I think it would be very complementary.” The D’Iberville property would honor the Wind Creek Rewards players’ club card, which, he said, will provide hotel stays and other rewards at all locations.
Although the casinos in Alabama have Class II bingo games, the South Mississippi casino would be Class III slot machines. And because the property isn’t on tribal land, Wind Creek Entertainment will pay the same 12 percent tax to the state, municipality and school district as the other 12 Coast casinos.
Dorris said Wind Creek wants to develop a good relationship with officials in D’Iberville and with the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
“We’re looking at several opportunities in other states,” he said, and he’s not sure which of those projects will get to market first.
In D’Iberville, the focus will be to make the best use of the site, he said, and identify the “thing” that will make this casino unique.