Nanni: Hardeeville casino supporters 'strategizing' amid Haley opposition

cconley@islandpacket.comMarch 8, 2013 

This artist's rendering shows the proposed casino that Hilton Head Lakes developers want to build in Hardeeville. It would include: 1) a conference and event facility with a capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 people; 2) a 400-room, four-star hotel; 3) a shopping and dining complex with 20 to 30 businesses; 4) a full-scale casino.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Some supporters of an Indian casino resort proposed for Hardeeville haven't given up, despite the governor's steadfast opposition and a long public silence surrounding the project, says city manager and casino proponent Bob Nanni.

However, with almost two years left in Gov. Nikki Haley's term and the possibility she will be re-elected in 2014, reality is beginning to set in that the project, which requires her approval, could be shelved indefinitely.

Nanni said he's had a difficult time reaching casino developers, but that one of them told him recently the investor group was "strategizing" how best to move forward given the governor's opposition. Nanni says the project remains in a "holding pattern."

"I'll be quite blunt: Based on the fact that we are dealing with someone who has to say yes or no, there really isn't anything in between," Nanni said.

He acknowledges he has no idea whether it will ever be built.

Developers Joe Brinn and Ralph Teal unveiled a plan for the 400-room casino last winter, describing it as a potential year-round tourism booster that would create thousands of jobs and millions in annual payroll. The 50-acre complex was planned within the Hilton Head Lakes development on U.S. 278 in Hardeeville.

Despite rosy projections about the casino, local opposition mounted quickly. Hilton Head Island Town Council formally opposed the project in May, worrying that it could diminish the island's reputation as a family-oriented, upscale destination. Gov. Haley, a Republican, also came out against it.

Along with requiring the governor's nod to advance, the casino, which would be owned by Cherokee Indians, also would need approval by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Over the past six months, the plan has fallen off the radar entirely.

Beaufort County Councilman Jerry Stewart said recently that he hasn't heard anything about the project "in a long time."

The same is true for Hilton Head Mayor Drew Laughlin. "I have heard nothing one way or another," he said.

Someone who answered the phone Thursday at Hilton Head Lakes said Brinn was in the office but on the phone. He did not return a message seeking comment.

Attempts to reach Teal also were unsuccessful.

Nanni maintains he hasn't lost hope:

"I guess I am a 'cup-half-full' person. But, of course, someone else could say that's wishful thinking."

Related content:

Deck still stacked against casino project, Nov. 24, 2012 Hilton Head council opposes Hardeeville casino, May 15, 2012 Developers unveil rendering of proposed Hardeeville casino complex, Feb. 29, 2012

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