"We told them we had deep roots in Mississippi, we weren't carpetbaggers, and we were here to help," Adkinson said.
Stone County's annual budget is $9 million, so Adkinson and Windham promised to pay for all of the amenities of a new city: $50 million in schools, a sheriff's substation, a firehouse, recreation fields, lakes -- even a county building department.
Adkinson has promised to make the homes attractive and affordable: the cheapest units, which will be modular homes, will probably sell for about $120,000. He expects Katrina victims to take advantage of the billions in federal grants meant to help them with down payments.
If a new map of south Mississippi really is emerging, Stone County's politicians decided they were ready to embrace it.
"I'm as country as anybody who lives in Stone County," said Hatten, 63, the board president. "I'd rather see it the way it was in 1964. But it's not -- so why not take advantage of it?"
But how far north will the coastal people be willing to move?
Adkinson's gamble really turns on that question. Another developer, Jim Frisby, is planning 5,750 houses, condos and apartments six miles from the beach. He thinks that gaming workers, with their moderate incomes, will not be able to afford the gas it takes to commute to Stone County.
The more pressing question for Adkinson is whether he'll be approved for the $150-million loan. He is confident, but he knows other financiers have been touchy about his past.
He has already invested $20 million in the project; Windham is in for $10 million. As he waits for the bank to make its decision, Adkinson can sound like two men: one, a philanthropist; the other, the old gambler.
"Dammit," the philanthropist says, "even if I lose money on this thing, I can still feel good."
Says the gambler: "We're either the smartest damn people in the world or we're the stupidest.... There's not a lot of gray area there."
Fausset was recently on assignment in Mississippi.