Gulfport Studies New Zoning For On Shore Casinos

Gulfport's gaming situation will be cleared up at about the same time Grand Casino's hurricane debris is hauled off. Rick Carter and his partner Terry Green are trying to buy the Grand from Harrah's.

"We're going to build something that's going to make Gulfport proud," Carter said outside Grand's Oasis hotel.

On March 15, the Copa Casino's owners should close a deal to buy their neighbor. And Carter's team has six months and a $250 million budget to put his stamp on Grand's old resort.

"We hope to build this area into something that's pretty special," Carter said.

That suits the city of Gulfport just fine. George Carbo heads up Gulfport's urban development department.

"I foresee this area being developed with more beautiful buildings," said Carbo.

His agency has created a new entertainment gaming zoning district, so the north side of the old Grand property could take advantage of new on shore gaming rules.

"It allows the Oasis to be brought back to life as a hotel with the ground floor or other areas of the property being developed with that gaming law," said Carbo.

For now, the new zoning district proposal extends along Highway 90 from 30th Avenue at the Port of Gulfport entrance to 36th Avenue. And it goes up a block to 11th Street. Here's the catch. It would only impact the old Grand Casino Oasis Hotel and Vrazel's restaurant.

"I can't wait until they get this thing rezoned," restaurant owner Bill Vrazel said while watching his hurricane damaged dining room be rebuilt. "It will clean up the area real nice, and we'll start looking like a resort area again."

And that's important to Vrazel. His restaurant should have a fresh new look when it reopens in May.

The Gulfport City Council must approve any zoning change before Rick Carter's team moves casino games into the Oasis Hotel.