Casinos Ask State To Fast Track Gaming Lab Approvals

Beyond a locked door is some of the hottest new casino technology. One machine is a state of the art cash dispenser. A slot game spits out computerized cash vouchers.

Because they're in this lab on Biloxi's back bay, and not on a casino floor, casino executive think they're losing money. Gaming commission chairman Len Blackwell isn't sure they're right.

"I don't know if a gambler who is coming to the Mississippi Gulf Coast is going to say gosh I don't want to go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast because they don't have the Dagwood and Blondie machines out yet," he said.

Since he became chairman, Blackwell has heard a variety of complaints about how long it takes for a manufacturer or a casino to get approval for its new technology. Right now, Mississippi's gaming lab approval process takes roughly 110 days. The chairman defended his overworked staff.

"We've had very, very dedicated people in our lab," he said. "And they've done yeoman service, I mean gargantuan tasks to keep up with the technology."

The gaming lab recently hired three new technicians. And it has legislative approval to fill two other positions. The additional staff is supposed to speed up the computer testing done here. Commissioner Blackwell said a form of privatization may also help.

"Allowing the gaming commission to make a contract with an independent lab that would do some of the work," he said. "That hasn't been finalized. But that's being looked at. We're looking at that."

Whether they get help doesn't matter to the gaming lab technicians. They plan to keep scrutinizing new computer software so it conforms with Mississippi casino laws -- no matter how long it takes.

A Gulf Coast Gaming Association spokesperson said gaming lab delays cost casinos as much as $215 million a year. The way she figured it, that translated into about $30 million in lost tax revenue for the state.