Gulfport Seeks New Casino Developer

Rotate Black insists it has lined up all the necessary funds to build a $130 million Hemingway-themed casino in Gulfport, Mississippi. But it missed a critical deadline, and now the state is seeking another developer.

Second casino developer also misses deadline

Rotate Black, the developer of a casino planned for Gulfport Harbor in Mississippi, has failed to find financing for the project.

Rotate Black CEO John Paulsen asked the Mississippi Gaming Commission for a 20-day extension of the April 1 deadline. “We’ve secured 100 percent of the financing,” Paulsen said; all that remained was the paperwork.

He added that his company has complied with every request from the Gaming Commission since undertaking the project, including increasing the size of the development from a $15 million cruise ship to a $130 million Ernest Hemingway-themed resort.

“Four years we’ve been working on this,” Paulsen said. “Twenty days didn’t seem like anything. It seems to me to be a reasonable request.”

Paulsen acknowledged that the company owes $6 million for professional services and other costs for the Gulfport casino, including $200,000 for lease options to the city of Gulfport. Paulsen said all the creditors would have been paid in full at closing.

The casino company also owes money to its architectural firm, Eley Guild Hardy.

“They do owe us money,” W. Taylor Guild III told the Gulfport Sun Herald. “We were anticipating getting paid at closing. We were hopeful to the very end. I know they were working with attorneys and their financial group to try to get the money wired and pay off the people they owed money to. But it just wasn’t able to happen.”

Poydras Street Capital, a private equity firm in Louisiana, has sued Rotate Black for $150,000, saying it was prepared to finance the project but was cut out of the deal without being compensated.

“We were hoping they were going to get financing because that was our best chance of getting paid,” Poydras attorney Michael Cavanaugh said.

The state is now in search of a new developer. “A Hemingway or similar theme at the Gulfport Harbor is a viable project,” John Hairston, chairman of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, told the Sun-Herald. “I hope someone will step forward with the financial wherewithal to build a casino resort at this excellent site. The bulk of the work is already done.”

Developers of another proposed casino, the Scarlet Pearl in D’Iberville, also missed a deadline to secure financing for the $250 million resort.

“I support the Scarlet Pearl project,” Hairston said. “Should they get their funding lined up as they committed to before we gave the last extension, I would be glad to call a special meeting or put them on a regular meeting agenda.”