Getting ‘The Big Easy’ to Gulfport may not be so easy



While “The Big Easy” is in dry dock at Tampa, Fla., being painted and prepared to become a new casino boat in Gulfport, the city is taking steps to smooth its way.

At today’s Gulfport Planning Commission meeting, the city will ask that the privately-owned Marine Life site and adjacent properties south of U.S. 90 near Jones Park be rezoned. The city also proposes an amendment to its casino ordinance that would give the casino developer 5 years to build a land-based casino.

Michigan company Rotate Black recently purchased the 240-foot casino boat owned by Harrah’s Entertainment and said in a news release it hopes to begin operations by January 2011. The company president is former Coast casino executive Dual Cooper, who headed the Grand Casinos in Gulfport and Biloxi when they opened and later became CEO of Casino Magic Corp.

Donald Trump and other casino developers were unsuccessful in bringing their projects to this site and Cooper could face similar challenges.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission will decide if the Gulfport property is a legal and suitable site before reviewing the developer’s site plans and financial capabilities to complete the project.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the Gaming Commission, said developers who want to open a casino in Mississippi are required to follow the regulation that requires for each square foot of casino space, a developer provides an equal amount of land-based development.

“The Big Easy” boat has 30,000 square feet of casino and two recently renovated restaurants.

“Their plan is to not stay in a ship,” said Gulfport Council President Ricky Dombrowski, who said he’s seen the designs for a casino hotel resort. The 6 acres the company has leased was zoned for casinos until 2005, he said, and the city wants to restore that with the new E-G Entertainment-Gaming classification.

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