Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Casino Cruiser Sees a Deal in Mayport Residents Say They Weren't Asked

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Casino Cruiser Sees a Deal in Mayport Residents Say They Weren't Asked

Article excerpt

MAYPORT -- SunCruz Casinos could hire as many as 185 employees and contribute $5.5 million to the area if it's as successful as some of its other day-cruise gambling ventures in Florida and South Carolina, said company President Ben Waldman.

The company will need to hire a maritime crew, casino staff and others to run the 185-foot ship twice daily from Monty's Marina on Ocean Street, north of the U.S. Coast Guard station. The gambling ship can carry 600 passengers a day.

Waldman said he plans to start the gambling cruises within 30 days, or as soon as he gets all the necessary permits. SunCruz has removed a building at the site, replaced pilings for a dock and is building a parking lot.

The casino cruise company is bringing the SunCruz VII to Mayport from North Myrtle Beach, S.C., where it has another day cruise gambling port and a new replacement boat, Waldman said.

SunCruz, based in Dania, has 10 casino cruise ports in Florida, including Clearwater, Key Largo, Hollywood and Port Canaveral. Waldman said the average salary for the projected 185 employees in Mayport would be $30,000 a year.

The company has a multi-year lease with Miss Becky's Seafood and permission to use the marina and dock space on the St. Johns River, said Gerald Pack. Pack owns Safe Harbor, a seafood distributor across the street from the marina that's also part of Miss Becky's Seafood.

SunCruz has agreed to pay Pack a certain amount per customer to use the dock, but Pack and Waldman refused to say how much that is.

"It's lucrative,'' Pack said. "It's worth doing, big time.''

The gambling cruise plan angers community leaders, in part because they said they haven't been given a chance to express how they feel about it.

Resident Alex Knewell said a second gambling cruise ship in town is two too many. …

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