By Paul Gable
Those who think casino gambling is the answer to the next great tourist boom for Myrtle Beach may want to temper their enthusiasm with the Sun Cruz demise.
It was only a decade ago when casino boats were expected to flourish in Horry County and county officials were planning ways to cash in on the boom.
After several years of haggling over taxing the revenue of the boats was unsuccessful, a $7 per passenger fee was agreed to between the boats and the county.
This fee, enacted in 2008, was projected to bring in $2.5 million per year to the county. The money would be spent on improving the Little River waterfront, paving dirt roads and providing a recurring funding stream for Coast RTA.
It never came close.
Sun Cruz stopped paying the fee several years ago forcing the county to go to court. While Horry County is winning the court battles, Sun Cruz is gone from the area with only the Big M boat remaining.
Big M, to its credit, has operated successfully while paying the county fees, but maybe only one casino boat is needed to service the gamblers who visit Horry County throughout the year.
While at least four groups are considering up to six sites in Horry County for a possible gambling casino that is hoped to be approved after the November 2014 general election, the gambling boom across the country seems to be going away.
Three of the 10 casinos in Atlantic City, NJ have either closed or are expected to by the end of this year. Las Vegas is struggling and is being talked about in some circles as being the next “Detroit.”
Gambling has not rebounded in the Gulf Coast area since Katrina wrecked the casinos and boat operations there and Native American casinos in other states are rumored to be in trouble.
The market is saturated and Horry County now wants to jump into the mix with considerable political maneuvering remaining to be done.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee casino gambling would provide any funding stream for local governments while the demand for services from local governments would increase from casinos.
What are these people thinking?