Judge rules in Biloxi’s favor in Golden Nugget rent dispute

A Harrison County Circuit judge has ruled in favor of the City of Biloxi and State of Mississippi in a rent dispute involving the Golden Nugget that could have meant millions of dollars in lost revenue over the long-term lease.

In a ruling issued this week, Circuit Court Judge Roger T. Clark found that the Golden Nugget, known as Riverboat Corporation of America in the lease, found that the casino resort must pay an additional $154,000 a year on its $3.73 million annual rent under terms of a 2008 contract with the city and state. The city and state share ownership of the property where the Golden Nugget is located, on the tip of the Biloxi peninsula. The city, the state, and the Institutions of Higher Learning, which once operated the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center at the site, all receive a third of the rent revenue. The lease payments also increase in years where the casino resort’s gross gaming revenue eclipses $90 million.

Operators of the casino resort had actually been paying the disputed fee.

The ruling could have cost the city and state $5 to $10 million over the terms of the lease, which runs as long as 50 years with options.

Representing the city in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, were Michael Whitehead and Ron Peresich Sr. of Page Mannino Peresich and McDermott, and city attorney Gerald Blessey.  The rent dispute, incidentally, was one of three lawsuits now pending between the Golden Nugget and the city.

Clark’s ruling involved a lease that was signed during the administration of Mayor A.J. Holloway. It contained progressively increasing amounts – growing from $2.5 million a year to $3.73 million a year – based on construction of a garage, hotel and restaurants. The lease also contemplated a hotel being built above the parking garage, referred to as a “podium” in the lease.

“This was an important victory for the City of Biloxi because the dispute involved millions of dollars in casino lease payments,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich. “I want to congratulate our legal team for their work in this regard.

“The Golden Nugget is a valuable asset to our community and I’m sure neither side will let this court decision interfere with our relationship. They are great corporate citizens, and we appreciate their many contributions to our community.”
See the judge’s ruling