North Charleston will take a step toward legalizing gambling cruises from the Cooper River when the first phase of Mayor Keith Summey’s proposal goes to the city Planning Commission next week.
High in the text of the draft is that the gambling boats be allowed to dock only in industrial areas that are “not in close proximity to educational or religious uses.”
That means the boats will be limited to tying up in an area south of Riverfront Park on the Cooper River, as far down as Shipyard Creek.
After weeks of build-up, the first of four proposed changes in the city code will be heard by the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Monday. The first change would allow for a casino boat business area to take root in the “heavy industrial” zoning category on the Cooper River.
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The additional changes needed later include amending the city’s business license category to include gambling boat coverage; repealing a 1999 ordinance that prohibited gambling devices; and establishing a surcharge for the gambling cruises.
North Charleston has proposed two methods of gambling boat surcharges to generate city revenue. One is for the gambling boat owners to pay a rate equal to 10 percent of the face amount of each ticket sold, plus an additional 5 percent on gross proceeds of each boat.
The other is to allow the boats to run the surcharge at a flat rate of $7 per passenger.
No matter what is charged, North Charleston’s “staff is optimistic that surcharge revenues to the city could approach $700,000 per year,” according to city documents.
As envisioned, the cruises would offer slots, blackjack and other casino games, plus dining and entertainment to passengers offshore. Summey appears to have the minimum six City Council votes needed to launch casino boat gambling, though official discussions have yet to take place among all the council members.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or firstname.lastname@example.org.