When the state Legislature swept “uplands” money in the last session and moved it to the general fund, it also inadvertently scooped up Biloxi’s share of the annual rent paid by Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi. Casino money.
Now, the city has filed a motion in Harrison County Chancery Court to recoup the Point Cadet casino rent money and has suggested “a friendly, yet formal way” to get its money, said Vincent Creel, Biloxi public affairs director.
The city is owed $1.18 million in addition to the $1.3 million that was recovered from the state a few weeks ago, Creel said. Under terms of a 2002 agreement Biloxi, the Secretary of State and the Institutions of Higher Learning, which operated the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center art Point Cadet, each receive a third of the rent and the $2.48 million is Biloxi’s share of annual rent paid by Golden Nugget Biloxi.
The city proposes Golden Nugget pay its rent directly to Biloxi and the city will then forward the remainder to the state. The city also wants to recoup the $1.18 million in back rent over the next several months, with interest and attorney fees.
Casino free money
The Legislature swept the money to the general fund in what it said was an effort to bring more transparency and accountability into state finances.
This uplands money isn’t Tidelands money that is paid by casinos and other businesses on the waterfront, the city said, and is not discretionary. It was kept in a separate fund within Tidelands. Tidelands money is an assessment collected by the Secretary of State on commercial property that sits directly on the water.
The state refunded half of the $2.6 million to Biloxi, but city attorney Gerald Blessey filed this compromise to get the remaining money owed.
Creel said the motion, which was filed Friday, refers to an old case that made it the responsibility of the Secretary of State to forward rent to Biloxi.
“The proposed solution would allow all parties to enter an agreed order that would allow Biloxi to collect the rent in the months ahead, recoup the funds owed for the current year and then distribute the appropriate division of rent to the State and City from month to month thereafter,” Creel said.