It’s game on: Second Natchez casino gets approval

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Magnolia Bluffs Casino employees and investors applaud after the Mississippi Gaming Commission unanimously approved granting a gaming license to Natchez’s newest casino. The commission met in the ballroom at the Natchez Grand Hotel Thursday.

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi Gaming Commission has granted a gaming license to Magnolia Bluffs Casino, just less than a month from the casino’s scheduled opening.

The commission granted the approval Thursday morning during its meeting at the Natchez Grand Hotel in front of a standing-room only audience.

Click here for more pictures from Thursday’s gaming commission meeting

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Before the approval, Premier Gaming Group President Kevin Preston thanked the commission, its staff and city officials, including the three mayors who have been in office during casino negotiations, for their support.

The casino, which is scheduled to open Dec. 21, has been nearly six years in the making.

Casino representatives Steven Hartman, Mary Lane, Kevin Preston and Robert Lubin talk to the commission before the vote Thursday.

The casino first received site approval from the commission in 2007 and approval to proceed with development in 2008.

The approval expired after the company failed to submit proper financial documentation within a certain period of time.

Mayor Butch Brown said during the public comments portion of the commission’s meeting that he hopes the casino’s approval and operation is in the best of interest of the residents of Natchez and the casino’s developers.

“We’re delighted to have (Premier Gaming) here, and we’re delighted to have you here” he said to the commission.

Magnolia Bluffs Casino will be the second casino to open in Natchez, and MGC Chairman John M. Hairston said he believes in a “clustering effect” that will yield a beneficial impact for Natchez’s tourism industry.

Hairston said he hopes the two casinos encourages further development in the city, whether it be gaming or other businesses.

The City of Natchez will have to issue a certificate of occupancy before casino can open. MGC Executive Director Allen Godfrey has said that casino developers should not have to appear before the commission again for further approval.

Mississippi Gaming Commission chairman John Hairston, center, discusses the Magnolia Bluffs Casino proposal.

The 43,000-square-foot casino will have 601 slot machines, 12 table games, a center bar with 20 poker games, two restaurants and a player’s club.

An outdoor deck will wrap around the sides and back of the casino and will feature a seating area and a fire pit.

The commission also approved findings of suitability for casino executives, investors and members of the board of directors during the meeting.

The suitability investigations are standard procedure and involve exhaustive criminal, financial and business background checks.