New Mississippi Coast Casino Gets Gaming Green Light

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Posted on: March 25, 2023, 04:19h. 

Last updated on: March 25, 2023, 04:19h.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission on Thursday green-lighted a gaming development called South Beach Casino & Resort. The project targets about four acres of land located at 6081 S. Beach Blvd. in Bay St. Louis.

Silver Slipper Casino, Mississippi
The Silver Slipper Casino Hotel in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The casino could someday have a nearby competitor, as a casino has been green-lighted by the state for vacant land just east of it. (Image: baystlouisoldtown.com)

The license was granted to Kirk D. Ladner of Diamondhead and Russell Elliott of Bay St. Louis. Ladner’s LinkedIn profile says he’s the president of Kirk Ladner Excavating, a Gulfport-based general contractor. Information regarding Elliott’s profession wasn’t immediately available.

The South Beach Casino was approved to feature a 40K gaming floor with 1.1K slot machines, 25 table games, and six poker tables. That’s according to a notice of intent to apply for a gaming license, which was published by Ladner and Elliott, as legally required, in a local newspaper.

South Beach Casino would be built onshore, but would remain within 800 feet of the 19-year high-water line as defined by the Mississippi Code. After Katrina, the state allowed its riverboats to move inland so long as the new gaming structures remained within 800 feet of their original barges. New casinos must be within 800 feet of the high-water mark.

There are currently only two commissioners on the state’s gaming commission, Tom Gresham and Francis Lee, both of whom voted in favor of the approval. (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.)

One Small Problem

Ladner and Elliott have yet to secure financing. Ladner told gaming commissioners that obtaining site approval first would make the funding process easier.

In 2004, Ladner and Elliott applied to license the same casino under the same name in the same place. However, they withdrew the application during the second step of the casino development process — the step in which applicants are required to show that they have the funding to complete the casino they were licensed for.

This is not an uncommon problem on the Mississippi Coast, which has 12 casinos across Hancock and Harrison counties, with several more are proposed for Biloxi, Long Beach, and D’Iberville. Twice as many as that were approved, but more than 20 casino developers who received site approvals have been unable to secure financing since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005.

Though Mississippi’s gaming industry has more than rebounded from the pandemic — generating gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2021 of almost $2.7B, the state’s highest gaming win since 2008 — banks and investors remain hesitant to open their wallets for new casino projects in the Gulf. Even the rock legends KISS couldn’t win over enough investors to help renovate the former Margaritaville Casino into a $200M rock n’ roll-themed gaming and entertainment destination called Rock & Brews Casino.

In fact, only one new company was able to nudge their approved casino concept into reality: the Margaritaville Casino, overlooking the Biloxi Back Bay, and that has since closed.

Elliott and Ladner have until 2026 to build the South Coast Casino & Resort.

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