Supreme Court: Mississippi right to reject casino site by former NBA team owner

Published 10:34 am Saturday, December 12, 2020

A proposed casino site on the Mississippi Gulf Coast does not meet state standards for where casinos are allowed to locate, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Mississippi law specifies that state-regulated casinos can only locate along the Mississippi River or on the Gulf Coast. The original law required casinos to be over water. After Hurricane Katrina hurled massive casino barges onto land in 2005, legislators modified the law to allow casinos on the coast to develop a short distance inland but only if other parts of the resort development touch water.

Ray Wooldridge, a former owner of the New Orleans Hornets NBA team, started trying in 2008 get approval for a casino site that’s a bit inland in Biloxi, using the business name RW Development LLC.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission rejected the site in 2008, 2017 and 2019. RW Development appealed to the Harrison County Circuit Court, and a circuit judge affirmed the commission’s decision in 2019. The company appealed to the state Supreme Court. The decision by justices Thursday was to affirm the circuit court ruling.

The Sun Herald reported that Wooldridge built Big Play Entertainment Center at the site while he waited for permission to proceed with his plans for a casino. The complex now has bowling, miniature golf, laser tag and other family amusements.