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Regulators OK Jimmy Buffet’s casino involvement

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Jimmy Buffett told gambling regulators Thursday that next week’s opening of his new Margaritaville Casino and Resort will be exciting, but creating jobs along his native Mississippi Gulf Coast has been a rewarding experience in itself.

Buffet was in Jackson on Thursday when the Mississippi Gaming Commission deemed him “suitable” for involvement in the casino, set to open Tuesday in Biloxi. Gaming Commission Chairman Jerry St. Pe told Buffett he’d already been approved, but showing up in person was required as part of the certification process.

In interviews after his brief commission appearance, the singer-songwriter wouldn’t say if he’ll perform at the casino’s grand opening, but he didn’t rule it out, either.

“I’m a shameless musician and coming home seems like a party to me,” he said.

Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Miss., and said he made his “first professional dollar in Biloxi back in the `60s” so he’s excited to bring “a thousand new jobs to the Gulf Coast at a time they’re needed.”

“I’m heading down there tonight because I’m excited to see the place,” he said.

Buffett said he hopes casino visitors will get a chance to experience the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast, like the serene barrier islands offshore, where emerald waters lap the white sand beaches, and other attractions, like the Walter Anderson Museum. Anderson was artist who spent much of his life exploring and painting nature in south Mississippi.

Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming commission, said Thursday that casino workers and officials are busy going through a final checklist that includes testing gambling machines and surveillance equipment.

Godfrey said he doesn’t expect anything will hold up the opening Tuesday, which begins for special guests at 5 p.m. and for the general public at 8 p.m.

This casino is not associated with another project that became a victim of the economic downturn. Buffett and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. _ now known as Caesars Entertainment Corp. _ announced plans in 2007 to build a $700 million casino-hotel on the beach. That resort was scheduled to open in 2010 but now sits unfinished after construction stopped in 2008 because of the recession.

Buffet joined with other investors to build the current casino on Biloxi’s Back Bay. Plans call for about 60,000 square feet of casino with 820 slots and 18 table games, as well as restaurants and event center space.

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