Mayor: Gaming rule targets Díhead
By Dwayne Bremer
Feb 19, 2013, 17:57
Diamondhead's mayor and city council believe proposed changes to the Mississippi Gaming Commission's regulations are aimed directly at the young city, and if implemented, will hinder the possibility of a future casino in Diamondhead and other smaller markets.
On Monday, Diamondhead Mayor Chuck Ingraham sent a letter to gaming commission Chairman John Hairston outlining its objections to the proposal.
The gaming commission is expected to vote on the proposal at a meeting Thursday in Jackson.
Last month, the gaming commission asked for public comments on proposed changes to its licensing, application, and approval regulations.
Ingraham said the proposal was influenced by a Diamondhead resident, but he did not name the resident. He said many of the changes are "unreasonable."
"The proposed amendments appear to be biased in favor of larger gaming venues, while impairing the opportunities for economic development and tourism expansion in smaller municipalities which would benefit from the revenues generated by a casino," Ingraham said in the letter.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, a Diamondhead resident asked councilmen if they felt the new regulations were aimed specifically at Diamondhead.
"It appears that way to the mayor and council," City Attorney Bragg Williams said.
"We have reviewed it and believe this specifically focuses on us," Ingraham said.
Diamondhead's chief complaint is a proposal that no new casino be approved unless it has a 300-room hotel that is rated no lower than four stars on the Forbes Travel Guide.
Ingraham said three of the 12 current Coast casinos do not have hotels and three others have hotels with capacities under 300.
Furthermore, he said, there are no four-star hotels anywhere in Mississippi.
"We feel this would be impracticable," he said.
Another complaint is that applicants will only have 90 days to start construction after closing all financing.
Gaming commission staff officer Rob Vickery said Tuesday that all of the comments for or against the proposed changes will be taken into account before Thursday's meeting.
Residents and political entities can also make comments at the meeting, he said. Over the past decade, several companies have looked into the possibility of putting a casino in Diamondhead. Ingraham said he and the city council would consider a casino if the right opportunity presented itself.
"Our concern is that we want to make sure we can entertain the idea of a casino if one is presented to us," he said. "As a small community searching for economic development opportunities, Diamondhead urges that the commission reconsider the proposed amendments."