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Casino boat almost set to cruise

A local entrepreneur is almost set to bring a gambling boat to the city's doorstep, but at least one official has some questions about it first.

Port Richey City Council member Fred Miller, a longtime advocate and activist for environmental issues, said he wants to know how a 100-foot floating casino docked at Clark's Landing restaurant is going to affect the Pithlachascotee River.

"Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent in the last 10 years to improve the water quality of the Cotee River," he wrote Friday in a letter to the Times. "With this in mind, one wonders about the future of this beautiful river? Having to share itself with these notorious polluters of waterways."

Bill Kolokithas, the Pasco County man who plans to run the $3-million business venture with his two sisters, Stacy and Alexia, said he is sympathetic. "I can understand the concern about that," he said Wednesday.

However, the 2-year-old ship has a state-of-the-art chemical waste treatment system, he said. After the sewage is treated, a pump removes it from the boat and loads it onto a truck for disposal on land.

"I don't see any problems there at all," Kolokithas said. "We ran a boat out of Tarpon Springs for a year and a half, and we know the precautions to take with a ship." He was referring to the Mr. Lucky gambling boat that his parents once owned.

Miller could not be reached for further comment Wednesday.

Kolokithas also said the ship, which has not yet been named, would be docked at Clark's Landing for 10 hours a day, from midnight to 10 a.m. The rest of the time would be spent in 5{-hour cruises from Port Richey out to the 9-mile boundary for international waters.

Each cruise will offer slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker, craps and other games of chance, as well as live entertainment and a full buffet.

"We've got the boat now, and we're waiting to do the final papers on the dock," Kolokithas said. "We're looking at about a month for it (the ship) to be here . . . and we're ready to cruise."

Other council members reserved their opinions about the gambling ship until they knew more about it, but Mayor James Carter said he is not opposed to the idea.

"There are many areas to be checked on, such as parking and related matters, but . . . we have gambling boats in Tampa and St. Petersburg," he said. "The people who want to patronize these boats are already here. . . . I just can't find anything against it."

Miller raised the issue for discussion at the June 27 City Council meeting. The council decided to let the city's Port Authority board look into the matter and report its findings.

City Clerk Shirley Dresch said a meeting between the ship owners and the board is tentatively set for early August.