New Gambling Barge Approved for Biloxi, Miss.

BILOXI, Miss. -- The Isle of Capri may proceed with plans for a bigger gambling barge, and Boomtown may move its casino from leased property to land it owns.

The projects received unanimous approval from the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday night. Although the casinos had already received the go-ahead from the Mississippi Gaming Commission, they had to show the projects would not tie up traffic or create any other city problems.

The biggest investment of the two is the Isle's plan to replace its gambling barge with a bigger casino. The $90 million change will allow the Isle to increase its slot machines from 1,180 to 2,100 and its table games from 28 to 50. The investment comes on the heels of an $80 million new hotel scheduled to open in May.

Bill Kilduff, general manager of the Isle, said the docking system for the new casino will greatly lessen the incline on the ramp leading to the gambling barge. A new breakwater on the south side of its berth will also give the casino better protection from wave action and tidal surges.

Boomtown will move its casino barge about 300 feet west of its current location, which is owned by Raphael Skrmetta, to the new site that it owns. Michael Cavanaugh, a lawyer for Boomtown, said the move will put the casino in a more central location to its parking. Boomtown also plans to build a 74,000-square-foot building for restaurants and add more parking.

Jamie White, a lawyer for Skrmetta, claimed the parking issue was just a pretext for the casino company to avoid having to pay his client a percentage of gross revenues. Boomtown and Skrmetta are involved in a court fight over the issue.

U.S. District Judge Walter J. Gex III issued a summary judgment last year in favor of the casino, but the decision is being appealed.