Long Beach casino clears big obstacle with court ruling
A proposed Long Beach casino could open its doors in two years, officials say, following a recent Harrison County Chancery Court ruling to pave the way for the major economic development project.
Casino supporters say it’s a little early to celebrate as 2021 begins. There is still much work ahead before a proposed $180 million casino of at least 40,000 square feet, and a 300-room hotel can become a reality on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
After all, a Long Beach casino has been in the discussion stages for four years. And there are more steps to come, says City Alderman-at-Large Donald Frazer.
Long Beach Mayor George Bass and other City leaders have long said they support a casino being built across from the harbor as a way to enhance the economy plus boost local tax revenues.
There are more things to happen in a lengthy process. In 2021, the Mississippi Gaming Commission would need to give its final approval to the casino project. That could take eight months to a year. Once all the green lights occur, construction would take an estimated eighteen months, Frazer said.
Giving a shot in the arm to those officials optimistic a Long Beach casino will happen is the new Harrison County Chancery Court ruling. In December, the court decided in favor of the Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC. The judges ruled the casino developers are not required to enter into a separate Tidelands lease with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office. The State office had claimed the premises belonged in the State under the Public Trust Tidelands Law.
The developers presently have a lease on the proposed site with the City of Long Beach with the intention of building a casino on property just north of U.S. 90.
Long Beach leaders this winter are again trumpeting the project’s positives from an economic standpoint. Pumping up revenues for Long Beach public schools and the city would be a big plus, Frazer said.
He estimates an extra $2.5 million per-year will be poured into Long Beach public schools.
“That is huge,’’ said Frazer.
Construction of a Long Beach casino and hotel would occur during a brighter time for the troubled American economy in a post-COVID-19 era.
“The pandemic would be over,” Frazer said in an interview weeks after coronavirus vaccines arrived for U.S. healthcare workers, the elderly, and first responders. Millions of other vaccines will go to the nation’s general population in 2021.
The project is more than a casino and hotel, with space for convention meetings. The development will include three restaurants.
Frazer predicts the project will generate $70 million to $80 million a year for the City. While there are plenty of casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he says “you don’t have many” on the west side, referring to West Harrison County and neighboring Hancock County. Just down U.S. 90 sits the Island View casino and hotel in Gulfport. The Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis and Silver Slipper Casino Hotel in Hancock County are other nearby beachfront properties.
Jason D. Green, president of the Carnival Association of Long Beach, is among the local leaders giving his endorsement to the proposed casino. The project, he said, would strengthen Long Beach businesses and the tax base.
“Any new commercial development is welcome, especially in small towns,” Green said. “Bringing in additional people is good for everyone involved,” he said. A new casino and hotel “will bring attention to your community.”
There are now twelve Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos. In January 2019, the Mississippi Gaming Commission gave its initial approval to the proposed site of the thirteenth - in Long Beach. Local developer James Parrish of Long Beach Harbor Resorts has spent the past few years pressing for the casino and hotel.
There are several Long Beach homeowners who say the Gulf Coast is already saturated with casinos and fear the development will spark an increase in crime. Critics say there are more pressing issues, like addressing drainage problems and roads.
But Green points out he’s glad to see people willing to invest in the community. And the proposed casino and hotel, he noted, will be of modest size.