by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/AP Member –

In a unanimous ruling by the Mississippi State Supreme Court ruling Thursday, August 25, the justices affirmed the ruling of the Harrison County Chancery Court, which allowed the Long Beach Harbor Resorts to create a casino development in their lease with the city. 

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office filed the lawsuit because the parking area was thought to be a designated part of the public tidelands trust fund.  This portion would become a priority for future gaming.

As stated by Supreme Court Associate Justice Bobby Chamberlin in his majority opinion, “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.”  Justice Chamberlin went further to state “But the State did lease this right away and, further, did specifically ratify the prior Resort Lease. The City exercised its leased right by continuing its lease with the Resort.”

The litigation was filed before the current Secretary of State (SOS) held office and while the current official, Michael Watson, kept the lawsuit ongoing, he felt the office would adhere with the court’s decision.

 The Supreme Court has again reaffirmed the Legislature’s grant of authority to the Secretary of State to act as the agent for the State of Mississippi as trustee of the public trust tidelands,” expressed Watson. “The Supreme Court’s decision today is narrowly tailored to decades-old agreements between the City of Long Beach and Long Beach Harbor Resort, as well as the agreements between the City and the State of Mississippi. We will honor the court’s ruling.”

There are still a few issues with casino development in Long Beach despite the favorable ruling, such as a few in-house obstacles with the gaming commission.  The commission must approve the financial plans of the development and the proposed plan must meet the gaming standards set before any groundworks begin.

Long Beach Harbor Resorts Developer Jim Parrish appreciated the court ruling for the final pass in litigation.  “We are very pleased with the Supreme Court decision,” said Parrish.

Finally, the city of Long Beach felt some relief after the court’s decision.  “With our lease agreement, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in our favor,” stated Long Beach Mayor George Bass.  “Now, we can negotiate with developments for the city.”