Casino Gambling

A Long Beach casino? New developer antes up


Developers are again looking at the city as a possible casino site and have made an offer to buy the Long Beach Yacht Club.

“There’s nothing to report at this time. It’s all just in discussions,” said Michael Cavanaugh, attorney for Long Beach Harbor Resort LLC.

The company was registered with the Secretary of State in May and lists James Parrish, owner of The Inn at Magnolia Alley in Bay St. Louis and other businesses in South Mississippi, as manager.

Members of the yacht club met Monday and said no decision was made whether to sell the club on the waterfront for $1.5 million.

Mayor Billy Skellie said the yacht club has about 60 years left on its property lease with the city, but a casino isn’t dependent on getting the club to sell and relocate.

“They (the developers) can still bring a proposal to the table without the yacht club,” Skellie said.

Having the land on which the yacht club sits would make a “cleaner”-looking property instead of building a casino near U.S. 90, he said.

Although the town is buzzing about a possible casino, “I don’t get all worked up over these things because it’s just a proposal,” Skellie said.

He’s seen two versions of plans for the resort — with and without the yacht club — but said nothing official has been presented to the city.

He isn’t pro- or anti-casino. Like others, he can see the positives of a casino bringing more revenue for the city and school district and the challenges of having to provide more services and equipment, such as a new ladder firetruck.

And though a casino may not be the savior to bring prosperity to the city, officials and residents have to allow an economic-development project, Skellie said.

“I can promise you, we need some revenue,” he said. “It can’t be all houses and beaches, because we have to have some revenue.”

Long Beach has wrestled with whether a casino would be a good thing for the city since gambling became legal in the state in 1990.

The first proposal was for a dockside casino at the foot of Jeff Davis Avenue, which would have been the first casino in the state if it had happened. In 1992, the city was negotiating with Grand Casinos to dock a boat in the harbor.

Residents voted against casinos in at least three city and county referendums in the 1990s, but after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they had a change of heart. In a 2006 non-binding referendum, 54.7 percent of voters said they favored a casino across from the harbor.

“We hope it doesn’t divide the city,” Skellie said of the casino proposal.

Skellie said he doesn’t plan to run for mayor again next year and he doesn’t think the casino will be approved in the nine months left before the next election.

He believes whoever is elected mayor will want to preserve public access to the harbor and parking for boat trailers. To keep parking for the harbor and boat launch as well as a casino development, the county could be asked to expand the harbor frontage.

“I never want to think anybody elected would let it be taken away from the public,” Skellie said.

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