Jun 26, 2014 6:51 PM by associated press
One planned Mississippi Gulf Coast casino says it's ready to start construction, but another's site is being rejected.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission voted Thursday to approve the Scarlet Pearl casino to start construction in D'Iberville. The casino missed an earlier deadline to obtain financing, but officials say banks have now loaned the money to finance an investment of more than $250 million.
The commission, though, turned down a proposed casino site by Jacobs Entertainment in Diamondhead. The three commissioners are siding with their staff's recommendation for denial and a letter from the Department of Marine Resources finding the site is beyond the required 800 feet from St. Louis Bay.
Scarlet Pearl CEO George Toth says the company plans to start driving piles at its site on July 7 and hopes to open the casino and 300-room hotel tower before the beginning of 2016.
"It's been a long, winding road, but we're glad to be here," Toth told the commission.
D'Iberville Mayor Rusty Quave said the city is looking forward to the revenue the casino will generate, as well as 1,500 permanent jobs.
"We've been waiting 22 years as well for a casino in our city, so it's a happy day as well for the city of D'Iberville," Quave said.
Scarlet Pearl would be the 13th casino in Harrison and Hancock counties and the first new one to open since Biloxi's $62 million Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant in 2012.
Spokesman Randy Fine said the investment group building Scarlet Pearl believes it can attract new gamblers, saying they can't find hotel rooms as many as 100 nights a year.
"In this market, hotel rooms grow the market," Fine said.
He also said the location on Interstate 110, connecting I-10 to nine Biloxi casinos, will help lure gamblers.
The Diamondhead casino is opposed by some who say it would spoil a residential area. It failed to win site approval Thursday after the Department of Marine Resources defined the marsh bordering the property as land and not water. Jacobs' site is on a man-made canal that eventually connects to the bay.
Experts for Jacobs argued Thursday that because the tide rises and falls in the marsh, it's part of the bay, and that the state erred in interpreting the law to require a casino to be within 800 feet of open water.
"This site is on the Bay of St. Louis, without question. There is no doubt that the potential site is eligible," said Henry Sewell of Thompson Engineering.
Commissioner Wally Carter told Jacobs he might be willing to approve the casino if they produced letters from other government agencies contradicting Marine Resources' position. Even if the site is found legal, the commission would have to vote separately that it's suitable for casino gambling.
Dan McDaniel, a lawyer for Jacobs, said the company isn't giving up.
"Our experts are going to go out and try to meet their requirements," he said.
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