|By Tom Wilemon, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 17, 2004 - BILOXI, Miss. -- Marlin F. Torguson, one of the pioneers in the Coast's gambling industry, will develop a casino resort with a Spanish-mission style theme on the Caillavet Street property owned by the Gollott family.
The resort will offer a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer within eight miles driving distance, a bowling alley suitable for national championships and 75,000 square feet of convention space. Its gambling barge will be on water but encased in a land-moored protective shell. Torguson, chairman and CEO of Bacaran Bay Casino Resort Biloxi, received site development plan approval from the Mississippi Gaming Commission on Wednesday at its monthly meeting in Greenville.
The founder of Casino Magic and a former member of Pinnacle Entertainment's board of directors, Torguson has been securing financing for the development and hopes to begin construction after the first of the year.
Although a tidelands lease has not been signed with the Secretary of State's office, most of the negotiations have been resolved, he said.
The Caillavet Street project, which is in a city of Biloxi urban renewal zone, offered a good opportunity because it is on a new traffic loop that allows casino patrons to easily travel back and forth between properties on the eastern edge of the city's peninsula.
"All you have to do is look at the next wave," Torguson said. "It's going to have to happen around Back Bay."
The convention facilities could rival Beau Rivage's, but with limited site space planners opted to design fewer hotel rooms. Each of the 400 accommodations, however, will be full-fledged suites. The hotel tower will be designed so more suites can be added later.
Michael Cavanaugh, a lawyer for the Gollott family, and Ron Hartley, the design architect with Dale and Associates, were also on hand to answer questions from commissioners. Gaming Commission Chairman Leonard "Len" Blackwell II asked if hotel heights or casino lights would in any way interfere with the flight mission of Keesler Air Force Base. The plans comply with restrictions enacted by the city in cooperation with the base.
After the meeting, Torguson said he would put a premium on customer service and that all employees would have extensive training before the resort's opening.
Torguson became a board member for Pinnacle Entertainment after the company acquired Casino Magic in a 1999 merger. Pinnacle later sold Casino Magic Bay St. Louis, but it still owns Casino Magic Biloxi. Torguson said he chose to leave the Pinnacle board this spring.
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