Copa Gambles On The Grand Casino

Copa Casino owners Rick Carter and Terry Green say they've hit the jackpot by buying the Grand Casino in Gulfport.

"We believe in this project, we believe in the Copa project. We think this is a tremendous opportunity for us and we're anxious to get the employees back to work," Carter says.

Combined, the two casinos employed 3,000 workers before the hurricane. Carter says he thinks there will be enough employees to fill slots at the new on-shore casino.

"I'm not even going to consider getting back in the water. It will be an on-shore gaming site. We're just not sure where right now. We've got an architectural firm that's giving us ideas to go with and it's going to be very exciting."

The sale means Gulfport loses a big player in the gaming industry. Still, city leaders look at the positive side.

Mayor Brent Warr says, "It's very exciting that the Copa is interested in creating a high quality product, which is what the city of Gulfport's been saying the whole time. We're very excited about the gaming industry."

Ward 4 councilman Jackie Smith says, "We have to have revenue since this natural disaster we had. We have to find it someway and between casinos and condos I think we have to look at it."

Carter says the financial backing for such a huge property should be a sure bet.

"We've got some great bankers behind us and Terry and I are laying it all on the line again. With time, working with the city council, with the mayor and all the community leaders, we're going to develop something that's going to be very impressive."

The Grand and the Copa each have a lease at the Port of Gulfport. Carter says they intend to develop both.  However, he says, the master plan for the port is still being determined, so it's not clear where the Copa will operate.  For now, Carter says, they will concentrate on the Grand property.