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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Gulf Casino Clears Obstacle: Mississippi Panel OKs Resort Plan

10 July 2006

D'IBERVILLE, Mississippi -- A former Mandalay Resort Group executive moved a step closer Friday to developing a casino in a Mississippi town rebuilding after last year's devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The state's gaming commission granted approval for a casino to be built on a 10-acre site in D'Iberville, which is adjacent to hurricane-ravaged Biloxi. The casino ownership group, headed by former Mandalay executive Peter Simon, expects to file development plans for the site within the next six months.

Simon, who is a partner with two Mississippi businessmen, said the facility could include a casino with 1,500 to 2,000 slot machines and 50 table games.

"It's a tremendous site," Simon said. "The city and the residents of D'Iberville are finally getting the revenue and development they have long sought in their area."

Simon didn't put a price on the project, but he hoped the casino would be open by the end of 2008 in order to receive some federal tax incentives.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August, and 13 casinos were either heavily damaged or destroyed. In the following months, Mississippi lawmaker loosened gaming regulations, allowing casinos to move 800 feet on shore off the Gulf of Mexico.

Three Biloxi casinos have reopened since the hurricane and the state's largest casino. MGM Mirage's Beau Rivage, scheduled to reopen Aug. 29, the hurricane's one-year anniversary.

The city of D'Iberville has been seeking a casino for more than 10 years. Simon, who was a senior vice president with Mandalay before the company's $7.9 billion buyout last year by MGM Mirage, is developing plans for a 52,500-square-foot facility off Interstate 110, the highway that leads into Biloxi.

The casino would be built on the north shore of Biloxi Bay.

"The site is the most protected on the Gulf Coast," Simon said in reference to future potential hurricanes.

D'Iberville city leaders, including its mayor and City Council members, testified in support of the project in front of the gaming commission.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the gaming commission, said the project would create between 1,500 to 1,800 jobs at the casino alone, not counting construction.