Tomorrow, the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) will assess a proposed gaming development known as South Beach Casino & Resort. This project is targeting approximately four acres of land located at 6081 S. Beach Blvd. in Gulfport.
The Silver Slipper Casino Hotel in Gulfport, Mississippi could soon have a nearby competitor, as a casino is being pitched to the state for vacant land east of the Slipper. (Image: The Times-Picayune )
The MGC must first confirm that the proposed site is suitable for a resort development prior to the applicant advancing through the lengthy state-licensing process. The state gaming regulator has approved several sites in Gulf for potential casino developments over the last 15 years. Regrettably, since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005, only one new casino – the now-closed Margaritaville Casino overlooking the Biloxi Back Bay – has been able to obtain the financing needed to bring the concept to fruition.
Tomorrow morning, South Beach Casino developers Kirk Ladner of Diamondhead and Russell Elliott of Bay St. Louis will present their plan to the MGC on how they intend to fund the project. Interest rates remain high, reducing the attractiveness of lending compared to before the US government began raising rates last May.
6081 S. Beach Blvd. is about a mile northeast of the Silver Slipper.
Mississippi is home to 26 riverboat and land-based casinos, with 12 of them located on the Gulf Coast.
The state requires that new gaming projects along the shore include a gaming floor measuring at least 40,000 square feet, an on-site hotel with a minimum of 300 guestrooms, a fine dining restaurant, and an amenity or attraction that will benefit the local community.
Jay McDaniel, the executive director of the MGC, told the Biloxi Sun Herald, “They’ve met all of the regulations required to get on the agenda.”
South Beach Casino’s initial plan submitted to the state features a 40,000-square-foot casino with 1,100 slot machines, 25 table games, and six poker tables. The applicants’ notice of intent to apply for a gaming license did not mention a sportsbook.
Ladner’s LinkedIn profile states he is the president of Kirk Ladner Excavating, a Gulfport-based general contractor. Information concerning Elliott’s profession was not readily available.
South Beach Casino would be constructed onshore, but within 800 feet of the 19-year high water line as specified by the Mississippi Code. After Hurricane Katrina, the state allowed its riverboats to move inland, provided the new gaming structures remained within 800 feet of their original barges. All casinos must be within 800 feet of the high water mark.
Mississippi’s gaming industry has bounced back from the pandemic.
The state’s commercial properties generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2021 of almost $2.7 billion – the state’s highest gaming win since 2008. Last year, the pent-up demand caused by the pandemic cooled off, with the state’s 26 casinos collectively winning around $2.5 billion.
Gulf Coast casinos earned approximately $1.6 billion each year, a significant increase from the $1.3 billion GGR they earned in 2019, and the $1.24 billion earned by the same properties in 2018.
Despite the impressive gaming revenue, banks and investors remain reluctant to provide financing for new casino projects along the Gulf. Even a proposal from rock legends KISS to renovate the former Margaritaville Casino into a $200 million rock ‘n’ roll-themed gaming and entertainment destination called Rock & Brews Casino could not attract enough investors.
Another project – a much more expensive $1.1 billion scheme targeting the grounds where the former President Casino Broadwater Resort stood before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina – was pitched in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to this project being put on hold indefinitely.