Mississippi Coast Entertainment, a limited partnership, has raised the $40 million needed to satisfy city leaders that a casino project is moving forward for the city’s harbor.
Robert Lubin, a Virginia attorney who manages the partnership, told the Sun Herald on Monday that the money is lined up to meet the city’s Feb. 28 deadline and he expects to return to the Mississippi Gaming Commission in March for approval to proceed with construction estimated to cost a total of $140 million. The commission meeting is scheduled for March 16 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi.
Lubin said the proposed casino has an unofficial name — Golden Harbor.
Lubin also has a separate Gulfport project to renovate the derelict Markham building downtown. At the city’s request, he said, he has studied the possibility of a hotel for the property, rather than the senior apartments he had planned. He said an 80- to 90-room hotel would compliment the public aquarium the city plans for nearby property.
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Both the casino and Markham projects hinge on investors lined up through the federal EB-5 program. Under the program, a foreign investor pays $500,000 for a partnership in a project with the expectation that 10 jobs will be created. In exchange, the investor gets a green card that entitles him or her to permanent U.S. residency.
The program Lubin’s group uses, a regional-center version of EB-5, allows indirect jobs, as well as permanent full-time jobs, to be counted. In the fall, the city agreed to extend casino project deadlines by two months because of uncertainty over the federal program’s future. The program was eventually extended, but is now set to expire April 28.
Lubin said he believes the casino project is safe because it already has been approved for the EB-5 program.
The city’s Planning Commission last week gave MCE permission to scale back the number of casino hotel rooms from 400, the number the city currently requires, to 300, the minimum required by the Gaming Commission. The City Council will decide whether to give final approval to hotel plans.
Golden Harbor would be built on the west side of the city harbor on acreage owned by the city, Marine Life Ventures and MC Marine. MCE has a 60-year lease on the property with the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission, the city’s economic development agency.
Lubin bought the Markham property in July and also owns an adjacent lot.
Staff Writer Mary Perez contributed to this report.