Deck still stacked against Hardeeville casino project

Nearly a year after it was introduced, the resort casino proposed for Hardeeville still faces long odds.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s opposition to casino gambling has not softened, according to her spokesman, suggesting the project won’t move forward while she’s in office, which will be at least two more years.

Even so, Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni hasn’t declared defeat. He believes the project still is in a holding pattern.

“I was going to wait until after the holidays and get hold of the investors and try to get some insight as to whether they want to get this fired up again or what,” said Nanni, who has visited groups in the area to gather support for the casino.

Casino investors “said they were going to take a look at strategy after the election and look at the options,” he said “Now that the election is over, they have to reach out, talk to people and see what’s what.”

A development team that includes Joe Brinn and Ralph Teal want to build a 400-room luxury hotel-casino and conference center on 50 acres within Hilton Head Lakes off U.S. 278.

The casino would be owned by the U.K. Band of Cherokee Indians, an Oklahoma tribe that traces its roots to South Carolina. The tribe would have minimal involvement in the casino and would not be required to live nearby. It would, however, receive some of the revenues.

Brinn and Teal say a casino would create more than 2,250 jobs and pay $92 million a year in salaries and benefits.

Attempts last week to reach Brinn and Teal for comment were unsuccessful.

The investors said in April that they hoped to pitch their plan directly to Haley, who along with the federal government is required to sign off on the project. The meeting still hasn’t occurred and Haley remains firmly against the plan.

“The governor has no intention of taking any action that would enable casino gambling,” said Rob Godfrey, the governor’s spokesman. “[Governor] Haley desperately wants to bring jobs to South Carolina. ... However, she believes South Carolina does not have to settle and that there is a better way.”