Mississippi Legislature agrees to pay Biloxi the back casino rent it swept in 2016

The money the state owes Biloxi for a casino lease should soon be on its way to the city’s bank account.

Meeting in special session Monday, the state Legislature passed House Bill 5 that directs Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to pay the city. It now awaits Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature.

“The governor pressed to make sure this was part of the session,” said Vincent Creel, city spokesman. “This is Biloxi taxpayers’ money,” he said. “They were just holding it for us.”

A total of $1,593,970.52 was held in an account controlled by the Secretary of State, said Creel. The Legislature swept the funds into the general fund during its 2016 Legislative session.

That total will be split three ways because Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi leases waterfront land from the city, the Institute for Higher Learning and a state tidelands lease. Biloxi will get $606,000 and the other two will each get $494,000.

The bill approved by the House and Senate should end the dispute, Creel said. Biloxi now is receiving payments on a regular basis, he said, but hadn’t been paid the money that was swept until the city took legal action.

IHL operated a marine education facility at Point Cadet before Hurricane Katrina.

“The Point Cadet lease, which is based on gross gaming revenue figures from the Golden Nugget, generates about $300,000 to $400,000 a month for the city,” Creel said. It has been averaging about $3.2 million a year for the city, he said.

City officials said if the state didn’t pay the money owed before the end of the budget year on Sept. 30, Biloxi might have to raise taxes to cover the shortfall.

Associated Press contributed to this article

Mary Perez: 228-896-2354, @MaryPerezSH

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