After making few adjustments, the Mississippi Gaming Commission gave unanimous approval Thursday to a change in application regulations, intended to make future state casinos more attractive to visitors.
“The environment has changed,” John Hairston, chairman of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said at Thursday’s monthly meeting. “And we’re responding to that change.”
Continued growth of gambling in other states has been a contributing factor to a downturn in revenue over the last five years, prompting the commission to spend the last 18 months developing a plan to spark more visitors.
“In 1990, casino legislation was passed as a driver to create jobs, and the positive results are undeniable,” said Hairston.
“It was unique then, but now, with the increase in casinos, most people are no more than three hours away from a casino. It’s no longer unique.”
One of the main adjustments to the plan that was originally proposed in January was to clarify the requirement for new developments to have a 300-room, four-star rating hotel as defined by the Forbes Travel Guide. After feedback, that rating was changed to a more understandable three-diamond rating as described by a travel publication (such as AAA).
Current Mississippi hotels in the three-diamond range are Palace Casino, Isle of Capri, DiamondJacks, Gold Strike, Harrah’s Tunica, Tunica Roadhouse, Hollywood, Horseshoe and Casino Magic. Four diamond hotels are Beau Rivage, IP, Hard Rock Casino, Monmouth in Natchez, Fairview Inn in Jackson and the Alluvian in Greenwood.
The original plan called for new casinos to develop an amenity that was unique to the market. This plan was adjusted to allow new developments to develop or support with the community a unique amenity.
The commission also moved the deadline for existing applicants to have a plan in order from March 31 to December 31. Applicants also have 120 days (instead of 90 days) to close all financing and start construction or the approval will void.
Other requirements in the original plan include a parking facility for at least 500 vehicles, a restaurant that would seat at least 200 and a fine dining area with at least 75 seats. It also calls for 40,000 square feet of gaming space. The regulation however states that some requirements could be supplanted by a high-value amenity.
“These are guidelines,” said Hairston. “This not a prescription for hotel rooms, it’s a prescription for growth.”