September 24, 2015
By Anita Lee at Sun Herald
GULFPORT -- The city of Gulfport might be back to square one on a casino for its showcase harbor.
Rotate Black, the company with state site approval for Hemingway Resort and Casino, owes the city $375,000 in back rent. The City Council wants it collected. The city's urban renewal agency, the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission, has asked for new development proposals for its three-acre portion of the casino site. GRC terminated Rotate Black's lease almost a year ago because of the overdue rent.
GRC president Carol Lynne Meadows said she does not know if Rotate Black plans to submit a development proposal for a new lease, but the company would have to pay back rent first.
Rotate Black has Gaming Commission approval to build the name-brand casino resort on the city parcel, combined with private parcels in the harbor that would give it a total of seven acres. The company proposed a $170 million investment in the resort.
"I would like to have a casino -- the right kind of casino -- and if they can't do that, the city needs to do something with this property," Meadows said. She said GRC publicly advertised for proposals to develop the property that are due Monday.
The proposals do not have to be for a casino. The city has sunk more than $40 million into harbor improvements since Hurricane Katrina, mostly from federal disaster-relief funding.
But the proposed casino site sits vacant on the yacht basin's west side.
"Frankly, we just couldn't wait any longer," Meadows said. "This is city land that should be utilized. We have given them more than ample time.
"I liked the concept of the Hemingway brand. We are hopeful that they will come through with that, but we can't wait forever." The latest SEC filing available shows Rotate Black had $3,470 in current assets as of June and $20.3 million in current liabilities.
Company CEO John Paulsen did not immediately return telephone calls to comment on plans. Paulsen told the Sun Herald in April 2014 that his company owed $6 million for professional services and up-front costs for the Gulfport casino.