In Biloxi, the quest for a new casino turns another page as Ray Wooldridge, the driving force behind RW Development, prepares for his fourth attempt to gain approval from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. This Thursday, 21st December, Wooldridge will present his case during a special call meeting at the Gaming Commission offices in Jackson, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., right after the regular monthly meeting.
Wooldridge’s efforts, stretching over 15 years, have consistently faced challenges, particularly with securing control of the property at the proposed site located at Beach Boulevard and Veterans Avenue. This location, extending to the water’s edge, is a critical requirement set by the commission for casino development.
However, Wooldridge brings new elements to the table this time. He has obtained a lease with the city, granting waterfront access, a key factor previously missing in his applications. Additionally, a March Supreme Court ruling supports his case by stating that a state Tidelands lease is not necessary for constructing a pier, a crucial aspect of his proposal.
Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Gaming Commission, acknowledged the significance of these new developments. “Now they have that lease they did not have before,” he remarked, indicating that the commission will now reassess the property’s suitability for Biloxi’s potential ninth casino.
Despite previous setbacks, including rejections in 2008 and twice in 2017, Wooldridge has remained determined. In 2008, his first application was denied after an extensive hearing in Biloxi. He tried again with new commissioners in 2017, leading to a public hearing in February, followed by another rejection. After reapplying in June 2017, the Gaming Commission once again denied the proposal in July, a decision later upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The lease agreement, signed in 2021, is a pivotal part of Wooldridge’s renewed application. It allows RW Development to build a pier, establishing control up to the water’s edge, a necessity for the proposed casino site. The five-year lease involves a base rent of $1,000 per month, with the obligation kicking in either upon the completion of the pier or two years from the agreement date.
Notably, the lease strictly prohibits any gaming activities on the pier, stating: “No gaming shall be allowed on the municipal pier, nor on any vessels docked or berthed at the pier, nor on any other area of the leased premises.”
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