North Charleston casino boat launch postponed

North Charleston officials took a tour in July of the Diamond Casino boat, docked here on the Bull River in Savannah.

The timetable to run casino gambling boats from North Charleston to offshore has been put on hold, and the boats probably won’t become a reality until summer.

Hank Hofford, one of the business partners in the venture, said today the amount of work needed is greater than anticipated and that his team is still debating what type of boat to acquire.

“Realistically, I’d say this summer will be our kickoff,” he added.

While there are casino boats available in Florida, there is also one coming open in the Mediterranean Sea area, he said, adding that the boat is just one of several areas that still have to be worked out in the multi-million-dollar venture. He noted that boats were just legalized by the city in October and the earlier timetable predictions could not be met.

“We’re doing due diligence and determining costs,” he said.

Hofford, a Charleston-area builder and entrepreneur, met with Mayor Keith Summey and several city staffers for an update today where he said hopes the boats could be running later this month could not be met.

A jobs fair is still anticipated, but down the road.

Casino boats became legal in South Carolina after the Legislature passed a bill specifically giving local governments the authority to accept or reject them. Little River, north of Myrtle Beach, is the only other jurisdiction in the state where they operate.

But in October, North Charleston City Council endorsed the boats leaving from the Cooper River waterfront, estimating they could bring in at least $700,000 a year to the city’s bank account from the various taxes, fees and other offshoot dividends associated with the trips.

As envisioned, the North Charleston cruise would offer slots, blackjack and other casino games once a vessel leaves state-controlled waters, along with dining and other forms of entertainment for the passengers. They would run from a pier on the northern end of the former Charleston Naval Base complex, near Riverfront Park.