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      Casino boat leaves Little River; future uncertain

      The Sun Cruz Casino Boat in Little River has set sail indefinitely and no one knows if it's coming back.

      With the departure, they've left a hefty unpaid tab with Horry County.

      Financial trouble is looming for the ship that's now at sea.

      In its wake, 150 people are without jobs and Horry County is out at least a couple hundred thousand dollars.

      But there may be hope. Most agree the ship will be rescued, but by whom is not yet clear.

      The parking lot is empty, the dock unattended, and a note tacked on the door says the Sun Cruz Casino franchise is closed for now.

      The note says they will not sail until the transfer of ownership of the company.

      The big players involved are quiet, but what we know paints a picture of financial trouble.

      Sun Cruz fell behind on payments to Horry County. They didn't pay the $102,000 October passenger fee. And they haven't paid November or December yet.

      The ship's parent company, Oceans Casino Cruises Incorporated, owns other operations in Florida.

      Sources have said the Little River operation has always been profitable, but the ones in Florida have drained the company dry.

      It was announced last week a new company may gobble up some of Ocean Casino's assets, including the Sun Cruz Casino line.

      NewsChannel 15 spoke with one couple who said they were stunned and upset after booking a sail with Sun Cruz only to be stood up.

      "And you think it a common courtesy after asking me three times what hotel I was in, my hotel room number, and my cell phone number, they would call us back and let us know that we're not running any cruises. They never called. So my wife and I just said the heck with it," said Anthony Papa.

      The county's attorney said if there is a new buyer for Sun Cruz, they'll have to settle up the late payments to the county before they set sail again.

      There is still one gambling boat left in Little River, and that is the Big M Casino.

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