St. Pe' Joins Gaming Panel

Should casinos float on water -- or should they move inland, onto sites like a Back Bay Boulevard location, where machines spent Friday digging out Golden Gulf Casino's potential home?

Should the state be more interested in protecting tidelands money -- or annual casino revenues?

Jerry St. Pe' now has a say in those decisions.

"First of all, I don't think we're in the situation of choosing between one or the other," the new gaming commissioner said.

On October first, St. Pe' replaced Len Blackwell on the Mississippi Gaming Commission. His predecessor thought the state should adopt land based gambling regulations.

"My own view is this isn't about inland gaming," St. Pe said. "It's about protecting this industry. And so I believe there is a way to put in bookends around this issue."

Secretary of State Eric Clark believes Mississippi must do whatever it can to protect the six million dollars a year in tidelands funds it receives from casino leases. The new gaming commissioner understands the importance of that money.

"But I also think that we have a large responsibility to protect this industry and the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue," he said. "This is a difference of opinion about how to achieve that."

Not only is St. Pe' a gaming commissioner, he also sits on a committee that's been analyzing whether casinos should move off the shoreline. His belief is the state must find some sort of way to tie casinos to the mainland.

"This industry today is so important to the state of Mississippi that we need to find a way to keep its image, keep its reputation and grow it, and do it responsibly," the former Ingalls executive said.

A recommendation from St. Pe's committee about casinos and where they should dock is expected later this month.