Jerry St. Pe' about to leave as a gaming commissioner

Jerry St. Pe' is scheduled to step down after serving eight years with the state gaming commission.
Jerry St. Pe' is scheduled to step down after serving eight years with the state gaming commission.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - During his nearly decade long run on the gaming commission, Jerry St. Pe' learned an important lesson about the industry.

"First and foremost was the importance of this industry to the economy of Mississippi in terms of job creation and job retention and revenue generation for the state and those local areas, where gaming is present in the State of Mississippi," St. Pe' explained.

The biggest challenge of his career was rebuilding the industry that was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That included changing state law to allow casinos to move on land. It was a tough sell.

"This wasn't a question about whether or not we were going to continue to have that and weren't going to grow the industry. Once it became apparent that this was going to go away, it got a little easier," St. Pe' recalled.

Some state lawmakers and others have questioned the gaming commissions role as an economic developer instead of being focused on regulation.

Jerry St. Pe' said, "I think this commission has done an extraordinary job of balancing that duel responsibility of being effective regulators and at the same time being partners with those propositions that are meaningful and important to the state's economy," St. Pe' said.

On the issue of the gaming tax rate in the state, St. Pe' said raising it would be a big mistake.

"It would have a detrimental effect to tamper with the tax rate in Mississippi and at the end of the day the value to Mississippi, $300 plus million dollars in revenue is important but 36,000 jobs in this state far exceed the benefit of the tax revenue," St. Pe' said.

He said he also believes, the state needs to forget the past and look forward.

"We need to get pre-Katrina out of our vocabulary and look at more in terms of a snapshot in time. That we say, are we doing the best we can, given the circumstances we're in?" St. Pe' said.

His advice for others who will sit on the commission in the future--there's no place for politics in this process.

St. Pe's place on the gaming commission will be filled by Ocean Springs businessman Wally Carter.  He was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant and confirmed by the state senate. Carter's four year term begins October 1.

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