Biloxi Mayor Concerned Over Harrah's Delay in Building Mega
Resort at Grand Casino Property
Harrah's announcement this week that they will be delaying their planned billion dollar mega casino resort on the property of the former Grand Casino has stunned Coast residents and Biloxi officials.
Speaking for Mayor A.J. Holloway, Vincent Creel, the city's information manager, told GCN that mayor Holloway is hopeful that Harrah's will proceed with their project.
"The mayor is certainly concerned about any business that has indicated they would make a billion dollar investment in the city," said Creel. "Harrah's had told the city that if the state would allow onland gaming they would make a spectacular investment here."
In a Sun Herald news story, Harrah's officials have said high construction costs, a volatile marketplace and uncertainty over a proposed Choctaw casino are among the factors in their decision to delay their plans.
Creel also expressed concerns regarding the Choctaw Indian casino, which has been proposed for Jackson County off off Interstate 10. As an Indian casino, such a gaming operation would not pay taxes to the local and state governments as other casinos do and would not have to be located along the waterfront. These elements provide an distinct advantage that could create problems in the Coast's gaming industry.
"The mayor has always said there should be a level playing field," Creel said.
Most Coast area officials and businesses oppose the Choctaw casino and the Gov. Haley Barbour says he does not support expanding gaming beyond the counties that have already allowed it.
The issue of the Choctaw casino, which Harrah's said was a factor in their current decision, is an issue that is still unfolding and will take time. Harrah's may be wanting a more definitive answer on whether the Choctaw casino could be built at all, and such an answer would not so much come from local officials, but the state. Jackson County residents have repeatedly rejected casinos in the county by public vote, and a referendum again on the issue would likely meet another defeat.
Harrah's reopened what remained of the Grand Casino after Hurricane Katrina at their hotel north of their main property on U.S. 90 this past August. The company is also finalizing the purchase of the former Biloxi Casino Magic property, and has acquired additional property in the area.
But the latest announcement has brought some jitters to the area, which certainly doesn't need them. In addition, the Harrah's Grand Casino property south of their current operation is a bleak and huge empty field on the waterfront, and the former Magic stands as a battered shell. Certainly not an image of the future Biloxi wants to see extended any longer than necessary.