Casino Gambling

Why did the Gaming Commission deny two Coast casino sites?

More than a month after Mississippi Gaming Commission members denied site approval for casinos in Biloxi and Diamondhead, they released a statement saying both applicants failed to meet the burden of proof to show their sites meet the statutory and regulatory requirements, and neither site is within 800 feet of the mean high-water line.

Because the commissioners found the sites are illegal, they said there is no need to determine the suitability of either location for a casino site.

The commissioners left the March 16 meeting at Hard Rock Casino Biloxi without comment after they voted 3-0 to deny both sites. This is the second time the developers have been denied site approval for their properties; the previous denials under a different set of commissioners.

Both developers have appealed the commission’s rulings.

In the case of RW Development’s site on Veterans Avenue in Biloxi, the commissioners said, “In this location, the toe of the seawall is not the mean high-water line. Therefore, the proposed site is not within 800 feet of the high-water line.”

The mean high-water line is determined by calculations of all the high-water heights observed over several years. The statement said the developer tried to draw the mean high-water line at the toe of the seawall, and the casino within 800 feet of this line.

“However, the applicant’s survey ignores the sand beach that exists south of the seawall and attempts to re-define the plain language used in Miss.. Code Ann. Section 29-15-1,” the commissioners said.

Citing a 2008 opinion by the state attorney general, the commissioners said they find the mean high-water line is “the intersection of the mean high water with the shore, regardless of whether that shore is a result of beach re-nourishment.”

In the application by Diamondhead Real Estate, the commission said the proposed site in not on the Bay of St. Louis, and sits more than 800 feet from the mean high-water line.

The developer in this case sought to draw the high-water line of the bay at the edge of a harbor channel extending north from a perimeter canal, the commissioners said.

“To the south of the perimeter canal exists several thousand feet of privately owned salt marsh and then the open water of the bay,” they said. Two experts testified the marsh was part of the bay and the mean high-water line extended to the northern shore of the canal that runs between the proposed site and the marsh. The commissioners said opponents of the site provided maps that put the mean high-water line at the southern edge of the marsh.

“It is the position of the commission that the St. Louis Bay, as contemplated in Sec. 97-33-1, does not include the salt marsh and that the St. Louis Bay terminates as indicated on the attached maps,” the commissioners said.