Casino Gambling

Support grows for another Biloxi casino site

The Mississippi Gaming Commission comes to the Coast next week for a public hearing on two potential casino sites and the public already is coming out for and against the sites in Biloxi and Diamondhead.

The hearing will follow the February meeting of the Gaming Commission, which was moved from Jackson to D’Iberville City Hall to allow local residents to comment. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.

Rob Stinson owns three beach restaurants on Restaurant Row in Biloxi within sight of where RW Development wants to build a casino at U.S. 90 and Veterans.

He and other business owners in that area — where the city and county have pooled their tidelands funds to build a boardwalk along the water from Veterans to Rodenburg — created the Biloxi Boardwalk Association. On Tuesday, he announced their support for RW casino.

“Obviously it would be a benefit to us,” he said. Stinson said he’s heard the developer has the funding in place and said, “It will be a great development.”

Ray Woolridge, owner of RW Development, has built several businesses in that area since the casino site was denied in 2008. They include South Beach Biloxi Hotel, Big Play Entertainment Center and restaurants he leases to Wentzel’s Seafood and SlapYa Momma’s.

“He’s got a lot of investments here,” Stinson said. “I like the local guy commitment.”

Stinson said his restaurants, The Reef, Baja Beach Biloxi and Pelican Wharf, draw people from the Beau Rivage, Golden Nugget and other casinos in East Biloxi. He said a casino will greatly increase the number of people to what is referred to as the Biloxi Strip.

“I think it will help us because people get tired of being in the same building,” Stinson said.

He’s already planning on bringing a moveable Katrina cottage and setting it up as a coffee shop in front of his Baja Beach restaurant at the beach.

“It will give us an opportunity to make better use of that parking lot,” he said. It will have outdoor seating and a drive-up window — and be directly in front of the casino site if it is approved.

Harrison County Supervisor Beverly Martin said that unlike some casino developers who come to town and don’t have the money to build, Wooldridge has invested his money in South Mississippi.

“I do support his efforts,” she said.

She was in Jackson following Hurricane Katrina when the legislation was passed to allow casinos to come on land.

The Gaming Commission denied RW site approval based on the developer having control of the land to the water’s edge, while attorneys for the project argued that the measure, according to the legislation, should be control to the mean high water line.

Martin said she does remember the lawmakers referring to the mean high water line, and on the surface, Martin said she thinks the site meets the requirements for a legal site.

“We look forward to a fair hearing on the 16th,” said Attorney Michael Cavanaugh, who represents RW Development.

The Sun Herald will update this report.

If you go:

What: Mississippi Gaming Commission hearing on site approval for RW Development casino in Biloxi and Jacobs Entertainment in Diamondhead

When: Following the 9 a.m. meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16

Where: D’Iberville City Hall, Automall Parkway, D’Iberville