The Mississippi Gaming Commission gave the go-ahead on Thursday to a gaming development project called South Beach Casino & Resort. The proposed four-acre site is located at 6081 S. Beach Blvd. in Bay St. Louis, near Silver Slipper Casino Hotel. The license was granted to Kirk D. Ladner of Diamondhead and Russell Elliott of Bay St. Louis. Ladner is the president of Kirk Ladner Excavating, a Gulfport-based general contractor, while Elliott’s profession is yet to be determined.
The South Beach Casino is authorized to feature a 40K square foot gaming floor with 1,100 slot machines, 25 table games, and six poker tables. This was outlined in the notice of intent to apply for a gaming license, which was legally published in a local newspaper. The casino must remain within 800 feet of the 19-year high-water line as established by the Mississippi Code. This stipulation was established after Hurricane Katrina, allowing riverboats to move inland so long as the new gaming structures remained within 800 feet of the original barges.
Tom Gresham and Francis Lee, the two current commissioners of the state’s gaming commission, both voted in favor of the approval. (A third commissioner, Kent Nicaud, CEO of Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, has been nominated by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves to complete the vacant term left by chair Al Hopkins who died earlier this year.)
Unfortunately, Ladner and Elliott have yet to secure financing for the project. Ladner believes that obtaining site approval first will make the funding process easier. This is a common problem in the Mississippi Coast, where many casino developers who received site approvals have been unable to secure financing since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Mississippi gaming industry has recovered from the pandemic, yielding gross gaming revenue (GGR) of almost $2.7B in 2021, the state’s highest gaming win since 2008. Despite this, banks and investors remain reluctant to invest in new casino projects in the Gulf. Even the rock legends KISS couldn’t secure enough investors to renovate the former Margaritaville Casino into a $200M rock n’ roll-themed gaming and entertainment destination called Rock & Brews Casino.
The only new casino that has been successful in coming to fruition is the Margaritaville Casino, overlooking the Biloxi Back Bay, which has since closed. Elliott and Ladner have until 2026 to build the South Coast Casino & Resort.