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VOL. 128 | NO. 16 | Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mississippi Casino Regulations Could be Game Changer

AP

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi regulators want new casinos to be sturdier and gambling space larger with better restaurants and hotels.

The Sun Herald reports that the Mississippi Gaming Commission is accepting written comments on the new regulations. Commission executive director Allen Godfrey said depending on the comments, regulators could vote on the changes in March.

The new regulations would raise the required number of hotel rooms from 250 to 300 and hotel quality from a two-star to a four-star.

New casino resorts would have to have a 40,000-square-foot or larger casino floor, space to park 500 cars, a restaurant that can seat at least 200 people and a fine-dining restaurant seating 75 or more under the new rules.

Godfrey said the commission has also told developers that they need "an amenity that will be unique to the market and will encourage economic development and promote tourism."

The new regulations don't apply to existing casinos.

Godfrey said owners of approved casino sites such as the Broadwater, Bacaran Bay and Bayview in Biloxi, four sites in D'Iberville and one in Pass Christian have 180 days to present a project under the current regulations or be subject to the new requirements.

"You've got to be ready to go by Sept. 30," he said.

D'Iberville Mayor Rusty Quave said he has asked the commission to extending the deadline for approved casino sites from 180 days to one year.

"If they do that, then everybody's OK," Quave said.

Quave said he's also asked more-specific guidelines of an actual dollar amount that must be invested and what types of amenities would fulfill the requirements. D'Iberville plans to develop a French Village downtown near the casinos, which he said will attract visitors and investors.

Gaming Commission Chairman John Hairston said the state's regulations are changed periodically to fit the environment. When the Isle of Capri opened in Biloxi in 1992, it was a first in the South. Now there is a casino within three hours of nearly everyone in the region plus along the Mississippi River.

"The introduction of small, redundant casinos where gaming already exists creates no beneficial visitor growth," he said. "The Mississippi Gaming Commission seeks to attract investors who want to offer not only gaming but additional amenities, which create additional visitor growth. We need more visitors who stay longer because of a diverse offering of destination amenities."

He said the changes provide for diverse offerings and the potential for the greatest number of jobs and revenue.

"Consideration will be given for the particular market, especially small markets where the minimums may be waived in the best interest of that community, as long as the accompanying amenity is suitable and valuable," Hairston said.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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