Is the state gaming commission exceeding its authority?

Should the Mississippi Gaming Commission be in the business of promoting economic development, like determining the size and scope of casinos? A long standing legislative document says, "No."
Should the Mississippi Gaming Commission be in the business of promoting economic development, like determining the size and scope of casinos? A long standing legislative document says, "No."

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Should the Mississippi Gaming Commission be in the business of promoting economic development, like determining the size and scope of casinos? A long standing legislative document says, "No."

When the $55 million Margaritaville casino was given Gaming Commission approval, there were no questions asked.

When Rotate Black's $83 million Gulfport casino was rejected for the second time last week, lots of questions were being asked about the role of the commission.

In 1996, the legislative watchdog group known as PEER issued a report that said the commission should strike the term "economic development" from its mission statement, because it could be in conflict with the commission's regulatory duties.

A check of the agency's website found the term is still in use.  Michael Janus served in the legislature for 14 years.

"I think it was the intent of the legislature to have them as more of a regulatory body and not necessarily promoting economic development in the sense that they are that hands on," Janus said.

Scott DeLano is a current state representative.

"I think it may be a conflict just from the standpoint that we don't want to send a message that this is a political application process." DeLano said. "It should be very objective."

During the past several years, gaming commissioners have used economic development terms like "grow the market,"  "the content of the property" and the fact they don't want any casinos failures. But some, like Janus, say failure is not such a bad thing when it comes to American capitalism.

"In an odd sense, there is really nothing to be ashamed of when there is a failure, because that ultimately promotes the stronger casino entities and that's what we want, a strong, viable casino industry," Janus said.

The rejection of Rotate Black leaves DeLano concerned about the message the commission is sending.

"We want to encourage all investment to come in, whether it's a $500 million investment or an $80 million investment," DeLano said.  "I think that we want the business here and an $80 million investment is good for South Mississippi."

What is good or not good when it comes to casino development is still open to interpretation by the Gaming Commission.

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