By Paul Gable
With another apparent demise of a gas tax bill in the SC Senate, the Grand Strand and casino gambling are again being talked about as a way to fund road maintenance around the state.
The desire for casino gambling has never left the minds of certain players along the Grand Strand.
In 2009, this group put its initial support behind Gresham Barrett in the governor’s race. Remember the $85,000 funneled to Barrett that was part of Coastal Kickback?
But Barrett lost to Nikki Haley and talk of casino gambling faded into the background.
Despite the fact that what we are hearing most about is another casino gambling bill being pushed by House Democratic leader Todd Rutherford, it only takes the signature of the governor on a compact with a Native American tribe to bring casino gambling into the state.
Neither the General Assembly nor local governments are part of the approval process, if this route is taken.
However, local governments would be important in the zoning and permitting processes and the General Assembly could be involved if gaming commission regulation was part of the compact deal and if the tax revenue is actually going to be dedicated to road funding.
A source within the local real estate industry told GSD last week that a land deal for a Grand Strand casino had been signed, but we have been unable to confirm with a second source to date.
Discussions between representatives of several tribes, potential developers and local and state elected officials are known to have been conducted several years ago.
At that time, at least five different sites were discussed, according to our sources. They are: the old Myrtle Square Mall site, what is called the South Mixed Use District (part of the Municipal Improvement District being planned in Myrtle Beach), a site near the intersection of S.C. 22 and S.C. 31, a site on S.C. 9 and the former Hard Rock Park site.
We have been told that at least one conversation with various Georgetown County officials has also taken place.
The talk of casino gambling along the Grand Strand is not in the area of ‘wild speculation’. Neither is it a ‘slam dunk’ certainty. But serious players are meeting with elected officials to keep it a topic in conversation.