Against the odds and through a saga of legal and regulatory hurdles, a vision once shrouded in uncertainty has taken a firm shape along the glittering coast of Biloxi. The Mississippi Gaming Commission, in a twist of fate that could only be likened to the turning of the tide, has affirmed the future of a long-debated casino resort. The southeast corner at Beach Boulevard and Veterans Avenue, an intersection of possibility and ambition, now basks in the sunlit approval of casino gaming—a beacon of prosperity on the horizon.
The story of this Biloxi corner is not without its share of drama and controversy. RW Development, under the steadfast helm of local businessman Ray Woolridge, has weathered the storm of dissent, navigating through a tempestuous sea of previous rejections, only to emerge resilient and unshaken. Site approval, graced with the golden stamp of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, marked a triumph years in the making—a three-year window now opens for Woolridge to manifest his dreams into steel and mortar, the very alchemy of a designer’s vision.
The Commission’s decree comes with strings attached, as is the way with such monumental undertakings. RW Development shall weave into the fabric of their creation a pier that beckons inclusivity, promising over $3 million in dedication to a handicap-accessible structure—a silent yet eloquent testament to hope and an embracing public spirit. The casino, a future nucleus of gaming and joy, is mandated to hug closely the line drawn by the caress of high-water tides, as per the laws of Mississippi’s gaming landscape.
Turning the page back, we witness Woolridge’s ambition, resolute and persistent, his plans for the Big Play Entertainment Center’s replacement oft thwarted by legal snares and relentless opposition. The ghosts of denial in July 2008 lingered, echoing the decree that his property lay beyond the arm’s reach of the required high-water embrace. The cycle played out again, a recurring theme across the years—new plans arose, only to be met with steadfast rejection.
Yet, in a pivotal act of destiny, the agreement to birth a public pier from the veiled depths cast Woolridge’s dream in a new light. It was an alignment of will and community benefit that saw the tides of fortune shift. For even as Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch raised the specter of legal challenge against Biloxi over tideland leases—and the high court’s gavel fell in March favoring Biloxi—the path cleared, the vision aligned closer to the water’s edge, allowing the Gaming Commission’s nod of assent to resound.
As is the nature of change, opposition waits in the wings. Voices from the realm of Biloxi’s established gaming houses, under the banner of the Mississippi Hospitality and Gaming Association and articulated through the concerns of Michael Bruffey, have voiced their trepidations. Declarations of non-compliance with state gaming standards echo, pointing to clauses of non-gaming use for the pier itself—a potential snag in RW Development’s tapestry of future delights.
Yet, the Mississippi Gaming Commission has cast aside those qualms, standing firm against the gales of opposition. And so, Woolridge finds in his harbor of resolve a moment of reprieve, and perhaps, vindication. In the face of adversaries unmoved by the prospect of additional competition, his eyes remain steadfast on the luminous shore of opportunity that now lies before him, officially stamped and sanctified, ready for the grand narrative of his Biloxi casino resort to unfold in earnest.