Harbor Town casino needs to be bigger, commissioners say

glpender@sunherald.comApril 19, 2012 

— After voicing concerns that the project is too small, the state Gaming Commission on Thursday tabled a request by Rotate Black to build Harbor Town casino and told the developers to try to come back with a bigger project.

The three commissioners all voiced the same concerns, noting that the Harbor Town proposal would be the smallest casino on the Coast, with less than 22,000 square feet of gaming space and an initial investment of $35 million in “bricks and mortar.” The developers said they have plans for expansion in subsequent phases.

Rotate Black officials said they will continue moving forward with their plans for a casino in the Gulfport Harbor, work on expanding the project and don’t view the delay as a major setback.

“Think of it like a neighborhood,” said Gaming Commissioner John Hairston. “If you’re trying to attract large homes, the more small ones you allow make it less likely someone will build a large one … You eliminate the chance of having big ones if you go put trailers up.”

The developers have billed the project as a $77 million one. But commissioners quizzed them on how much of that is actual bricks-and-mortar construction of a casino resort. They answered their construction contract is for $35 million.

“That’s the number the public should be hearing,” said Commission Chairman Jerry St. Pe.

Currently, only one casino, Island View, is open in Gulfport.

Hairston made a point of order to dispell what he said has been “a lot of dialogue in the marketplace” that another casino has been lobbying the commission against the Rotate Black proposal.

“Neither I, nor any of the other two commissioners – I know because I just asked them – have been contacted, through texts, telephone calls, e-mails, drive by visits, nothing. There has been no contact by any other operator or any lobbying,” Hairston said. “That would be destructive to the market.”

Read more in Friday’s Sun Herald and at sunherald.com.

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