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New casino boat, same fee deal for Horry County

Horry County officials are hopeful that the Aquasino casino boat, scheduled to start business in the coming weeks, will bring back about $1 million in revenue to the county's ailing budget.

County Administrator John Weaver told the Horry County Council Administration Committee the per-passenger fee agreement that existed with the SunCruz casinos before the company declared bankruptcy and left for Florida would apply to the new company. Weaver said the new boat, the Aquasino, owned by former partners in the SunCruz operation, will pay a $7-per-passenger fee in lieu of taxes for five years and then the county can charge up to $3 per customer for five years after that before a new contract would need to be negotiated.

"The boat is on the way up here. It will be here next week. I don't know how much training they have to do, but they are coming back with a single-boat operation rather than a multiboat operation," Weaver said.

The county wrestled with the casino boats over a proposed tax on earnings passed by the council last year and ended up negotiating the fee schedule instead. The new owners already have given the county an advance check for $100,000, Weaver said. The agreement will go before the full council as a resolution before becoming final.

The boat is expected to bring in about $1.4 million in passenger fees according to previous years' projections.

The committee also voted to continue a contract with the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce to manage 30 percent of the state's allocated accommodations tax. The five-year contract signed on July 1, 2008, requires an annual review during that period. According to the chamber's report to the council, it spent all of its accommodations tax allocations on Internet marketing including search-specific ads on Google, Yahoo and MSN.

The committee also reviewed accommodations tax spending to all of the chambers of commerce and Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday that comes from the county's portion of the accommodations tax collections. The 30 percent allocation requires a quarterly review by the council.