GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Despite missing an April 17 deadline to submit a financing package to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, Hemingway developers say their Gulfport casino will be built.
"We're going ahead," Hemingway executive Dual Cooper told WLOX News. "We will be in front of the gaming commission by summertime."
By then, Cooper believes his organization will have the financing it needs to build a $112 million hotel and casino on land adjacent to Jones Park and the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.
"We're going to keep pushing to get everything done," Cooper said. "We love Gulfport."
Cooper told WLOX News he thought his group had a financing package in place by the gaming commission's original deadline in January. But, when partners dropped out, securing new money became too difficult, even after the gaming commission gave Hemingway an extension until mid-April.
"It was a tough road," said Cooper.
A year ago, this project was referred to by its company name Rotate Black. John Paulsen is the CEO of Rotate Black MS, LLC. Today, a PR person sent out a statement on Paulsen's behalf about a gamble in Gulfport that hasn't paid off yet.
"Although Rotate Black was unable to meet the financing condition by the allotted deadline, it has an executed commitment letter for the project's necessary debt financing," Paulsen wrote. "Rotate Black has site approval, and current gaming laws grant Rotate Black the ability to apply for a new approval to proceed under its current design for the casino resort project through December 31, 2013. At present, Rotate Black looks to move forward with development by submitting the required financing documentation and reapplying to the Commission for authorization to proceed."
Hemingway developers and the Mississippi Gaming Commission staff have reportedly had very little contact in recent weeks.
"They didn't provide their paperwork to us," gaming commission executive director Allen Godfrey said, "so that approval has expired.
Without an approval to proceed with the project, Hemingway must basically start over. Cooper is okay with that, because it's not the first time he's faced this sort of scrutiny. Last summer, the gaming commission shot down Cooper's initial design, saying it didn't do enough to expand the market. So, Cooper's team added rooms to its resort, and came up with a project the gaming commission could support.
"We're not changing one thing in the design," Cooper said. He believes the 200 room hotel, the restaurants and the casino space created by his design team will eventually be a big hit in Gulfport. And by this summer, Cooper is sure he'll have the financing to prove his right. "We're going to move in a different direction. We're just putting everything together now," he said.
The gaming commission's top administrator would like to see this project move forward. But, he remains a bit skeptical.
"I'd like to be very positive that they have gone back to the drawing board. I'd like to think they're doing that. But, we just don't know," said Godfrey.