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Mississippi Casino and Card Room Gaming

In the 1990 Special Legislative Session, Mississippi legislators legalized riverboat and dockside casino gambling with the passage of HB2, which established the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. This Act also created the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC). The first casino, the Isle of Capri-Biloxi, opened in August 1992.

The Mississippi State Tax Commission initially regulated gaming until the MGC was ready to assume responsibility on 1 October 1993. The MGC is led by three Commissioners, appointed by the governor to serve four-year staggered terms. The MGC is responsible for enforcing the Gaming Control Act by setting and enforcing rules and regulations provided under the authority of the Act. There are many hotel casino operations located in both coastal waters and the Mississippi River. Land-based casinos were legalized in 2005.

Mississippi's $1.3-billion-a-year casino industry suffered huge losses when Hurricane Katrina landed in late August 2005. Nearly half of all the coastal region's major properties were blown from their berths, some up to a distance of a mile, onto dry land. Other casinos held in their moorings, but sustained heavy damage. Floodwaters reaching heights of up to 25 feet posed an equally debilitating threat for the remaining properties. The casino industry has recovered in the years following this natural disaster.

The state lost an estimated $500,000 in tax revenue while Mississippi's coastal casinos were closed. Harrah's lost $1.8 million to $2.5 million in revenue each day it was closed; MGM's losses ranged from $700,000 to $1.1 million daily; Pinnacle Entertainment lost up to $700,000 daily; Boyd Gaming's losses were $450,000 per day; and Isle of Capri lost up to $350,000 per day.

The staggering cost of Hurricane Katrina to Mississippi's casino industry pressured the legislature to allow casinos to be built on land. In October 2005, Gov. Haley Barbour signed into law legislation allowing Mississippi casinos to move from barges onto dry land. The new rules allowed casinos to be built 800 feet inland. To encourage rebuilding of the properties, the federal government offered tax incentives to casinos that could reopen by 31 December 2008.

Many of the casinos in Mississippi have rebuilt since the storm. IP Casino Resort and Spa reopened in December 2005. In January 2006, the Palace Casino Resort was reopened, and in June the Boomtown Biloxi and Treasure Bay casinos reopened. In September 2006, the MGM Beau Rivage, Grand Casino Biloxi and Hollywood Casino reopened. Isle of Capri reopened its doors in December 2006. The Hard Rock Biloxi reopened in July 2007. The Copa Casino was closed and its owners opened Island View Casino as its replacement.

In March 2006, the Gulfport Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the City Council amend the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and the zoning map to create an entertainment and gaming district. Seven of the 11 members were present. Gulfport Casino Partnership, the owners of the former Copa Casino, needed the change to proceed with plans to build their Island View Casino, which is now open.

In May 2006, the Mississippi Gaming Commission granted license approval to Rick Schilling for the Bali Hai Casino-Hotel (renamed Harlow's Casino Resort), in Greenville. The Silver Slipper, near Bay St. Louis, which was the first new post-Katrina casino, opened in October 2006. Plans had also been announced for brand-new properties in DeLisle, Diamondhead, Biloxi and D'Iberville.

In April 2008, legislation to ban gaming in counties that did not already allow it was rejected by the state legislature.

In March 2009, a bill (HB1467) was enacted which amended Mississippi's Major Economic Impact Act to provide tax incentives for casino developers who invested in building nongambling amenities. Developers could recover 30% of their investment of at least $10 million over a 10-year period. The law also provided for tax incentives to casino developers who invested $40 million in new hotels.

In late 2013, Caesars tore down the steel and concrete skeleton of what was to have been an $800 million Margaritaville Casino located on Biloxi's waterfront. In 2008, the U.S. financial crisis and Harrah's (the developer at the time) near-bankruptcy after being taken private had forced Harrah's to halt construction of the proposed casino. In January 2011, Caesars had terminated the development.

Subsequently, by 2011, Grand Casinos founder Tom Brosig was able to raise financing of $68 million and partnered with brand owner Jimmy Buffet (without Harrah's, now Caesars', involvement) to build a Margaritaville casino at the former East Harrison County Industrial Park, in the Back Bay section of Biloxi. The Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant opened in May 2012, but closed in September 2014 after it could not reach an agreement with its landlord to build a much-needed hotel on the property.

In August 2013, the Biloxi City Council heard proposals for building an extension of Back Bay Boulevard to Fifth Street, almost completing a loop around East Biloxi. The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) would commit $5 million from the Economic Development Highway Program, whose purpose is to build roads to support development. Chris Ferrara, one of the largest landholders in Biloxi, offered to donate part of his land for the connector road that would extend Back Bay Boulevard close to his proposed casino resort at Biloxi Boardwalk on Eighth Street and on to Margaritaville Casino on Fifth Street. The Margaritaville Casino has since closed, but Biloxi is still reviewing proposals to extend the road.

In 2013, legislators passed HB761, a bill that extended to 15 years the period of time that casino developers of nongaming amenities could receive tax incentives from the MDA.

On 8 March 2013, the governor signed SB2499, which authorized state universities and community colleges to offer courses in gaming management, casino hospitality services, cage and count operations, and slot machine maintenance, but only in those counties where gaming is legally conducted. The MGC must approve equipment used in slot machine maintenance training courses, but it will not regulate other aspects of the courses offered.

Mississippi Casino and Card Room Gaming Properties

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