Proposed Gulfport casino's next deadline is April 1

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Plans for a Hemingway theme casino development at the harbor were approved by the state gaming commission Monday during a special meeting at Gulfport City Hall.

Mayor Billy Hewes calls it a "late Christmas present" for the City of Gulfport.

The casino project proposed by Rotate Black has been in the works for several years and has faced numerous obstacles.  But now, community leaders in Gulfport are hopeful the long-awaited development will finally happen.

"I think the word of the day is finally. It's been a long time coming. Sometimes it takes a good while to make sure something is fully vetted and at a point where it can be properly considered. And that's our hope today," Mayor Billy Hewes told the commission.

Rotate Black's CEO told commissioners the project is first class.  "Four-star Hemingway hotel. Two hundred five rooms. Thirty four or 35,000 in gaming space.  Full hotel amenities. A beautiful steakhouse. Buffet. Cafe. And over the top pool areas," said John Paulsen.

The planned resort will be built on privately owned land along the west side of the Gulfport harbor.

Getting approval before the end of the year means avoiding new regulations that call for even larger casino projects and amenities.  The anxious crowd at city hall erupted in applause even before the final vote was taken.  After that vote, Rotate Black had the go ahead it sought.

It has been a long road for Rotate Black and this proposed Gulfport project. Twice the development was rejected by the gaming commission, which claimed the project wasn't big enough or interesting enough.  When Rotate Black increased the size of the development, it received gaming commission approval in August of last year.  But when developers failed to meet financial deadlines, it was back to square one.

"You know, we've been working on this project so long. It's come together and it's going to be wonderful for Gulfport. We're really excited about it," said Paulsen, after the favorable commission vote.

"The lengths they've gone to get a very good, strong financial backing. You know, sometimes things take time to get where they need to be. And hopefully, this is going to do the trick," said Mayor Hewes.

"I think it's incredible for downtown. It's going to be a plus for all the businesses. And a serious plus for tourism. Great thing. We gotta be happy," said well known restaurant owner, Rob Stinson.

The gaming commission gave Rotate Black a deadline of April first to make sure all the financing is in order.  Once that happens, construction on the project could begin.

It will take about 14 months to build the $112 million development.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.