Mississippi Casino Resort Long Delayed in Legal Battle Cleared by State Supreme Court

Posted on: August 26, 2022, 01:55h. 

Last updated on: August 26, 2022, 02:43h.

A long-delayed Mississippi casino resort proposed for Long Beach, Mississippi, has been cleared to move forward by the state’s highest court.

Mississippi casino resort tidelands Long Beach Harbor
Parrish’s Restaurant & Lounge in Long Beach, MS. The owner of the restaurant wants to extend his tidewaters lease agreement with the state across Highway 90 to allow him to build a Mississippi casino resort. (Image: Facebook)

Since 2018, Mississippi real estate developer Jim Parrish has been seeking state approval to construct a $180 million casino resort across from Long Beach Harbor. Parrish owns Parrish’s Restaurant & Lounge on the tidelands, as well as the vacant property across US Highway 90 — aka Beach Boulevard.

Parrish wants to build his casino on the land north of Highway 90. He plans to satisfy state riverboat gaming laws requiring casinos to be within 800 feet of the Gulf Coast’s mean high water line. He will accomplish that  by tethering the resort’s primary structure to Parrish’s Restaurant.

Parrish’s proposal has been tied up in courts nearly since his introduction of the scheme. The state previously argued that since the plan doesn’t include actual gaming within 800 feet of water, the resort should not be approved by the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC).

But the Mississippi Supreme Court this week came down on Parrish’s side. The high court cited earlier lease and boundary agreements reached between the developers and the state secretary’s office.

Tidelands in Question

The Parrish’s existing Harbor Market — the familiar elevated “spaceship” structure — was constructed and opened after reaching a tideland’s lease agreement with the city and state. Tidelands are lands that are covered and uncovered daily by water as a result of tides.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office manages tidelands, and leases such property to upland private owners for businesses that benefit the public and state.

Parrish reached a tidelands lease agreement with the state in 2011 for the restaurant venue. In his application for the use of the tidelands, Parrish told local officials his grand vision was to one day build a gaming venue called Long Beach Harbor Resort.

The state, however, has subsequently tried to stop Parrish and his entity, Long Beach Resort LLC, from lending the market tidelands lease for a casino. Current Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson denied the developer’s bid to link the tidelands to his vacant property across Highway 90. The state Supreme Court concluded that Watson’s actions were unjust.

“Had the State not leased this right away to the City (and the Resort by ratification) in 2011 through the Tidelands Lease, the State would be well within its rights as Trustee of the Tidelands to require the Resort to enter into a separate tidelands lease. But the State did lease this right away and, further, did specifically ratify the prior Resort Lease,” the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled.

Gaming Commission in Control

With Parrish now having a qualifying property to build a casino resort, the MGC will need to review the project. The process involves the state gaming commission reviewing financing plans and conducting background checks on primary investors and officials involved with the undertaking.

Prior to the pandemic and before more state legal battles, Parrish said in 2019 that he had secured financing to bring the $180 million vision to reality. The 2019 blueprint included a casino floor measuring 40,000 square feet and a 300-room hotel.