|By Tom Wilemon, The Sun Herald, Biloxi,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 22, 2005--BILOXI - Golden Nugget, one of Las Vegas's most famous casinos, may put a sister property on Point Cadet.
The Biloxi City Council will hear plans on the proposal today at 1 p.m. from representatives of Landry's Restaurant Inc., the restaurant chain that owns the brand.
"I think this is just the beginning of our comeback," said Mayor A.J. Holloway. "I think Biloxi will see in the next six to eight years, 18 to 20 casinos around the east end of the city, where we have the zoning and the roads built... This proposal makes a statement for Biloxi. I think people are realizing that Biloxi is a strong market and they want to be here."
The Golden Nugget would go on both private and city-owned property between the Palace Casino and the Isle of Capri - the same location where Ameristar had considered putting a casino this year. Several homeowners on Point Cadet pooled their properties to market the site.
Part of the city's property has a covenant limiting it to recreational uses because it was deeded to Biloxi by the Department of the Interior. The city has already begun negotiating with federal authorities to mitigate for the loss of public use. Although Holloway said he believes the casino development could co-exist with the Seafood and Maritime Museum, he thinks the city should offer the museum a location on higher ground with easier access.
Another legal obstacle is that the Isle of Capri Inc. has right of first refusal to the city land.
"Whoever comes up with the best proposal," Holloway said. "If the Isle can beat it, we'll have to honor their right of first refusal."
Holloway and City Council President Mike Fitzpatrick said they willhear the plans in open session instead of meeting behind closed doors.
"The plans include an aquarium, a first-class hotel, restaurants and the whole nine yards," Fitzpatrick said. "It's going to be very interesting."
In a separate meeting at 10 a.m. today, the Isle of Capri and the Palace Casino will present master plans for reopening their casinos.
Neither the Isle nor Landry's responded to a request from the Sun Herald for comments about the Point Cadet property.
Landry's, a publicly traded company, this year acquired the Golden Nugget Hotels in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev., from MGM Mirage, the parent company of Beau Rivage. The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, which was originally built in the late 1940s, is the casino that Steve Wynn built his empire from.
The Golden Nugget in Biloxi would include family attractions not usually found at a casino, such as a boardwalk and a Ferris wheel, Holloway said.
Landry's, which is based in Houston, is responsible for a similar project in Galveston. Two years ago, the company purchased the Flagship Hotel and Pier from that Texas city. It is spending $15 million to transform the property into a turn of the century inn and restaurant entertainment complex.
The investment in Biloxi would be much bigger. Landry's has assets of $1.6 billion and long-term debt of $814 million, according to its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its restaurant brands include Landry's Seafood House, Joe's Crab Shack, The Crab House, Charley's Crab, the Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House and Rainforest Cafe. It operates a total of 390 restaurants.
The Isle of Capri has assets of $1.7 billion and long-term debt of $1.16 billion, according to its filing with the SEC.
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