PEER Report Targets Gaming Commission

A legislative watchdog group says several State Gaming Commission officials violated their own anti-gambling policies and should be punished.

A report out from the Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review , known as PEER, says three people on the gaming commission, including executive director Chuck Patton, took part in a Charity Poker Event in March at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica.

The PEER committee said it's against Gaming Commission policy to partake in any kind of gaming event, but Gaming officials say they did nothing wrong.

"Clearly it wasn't gambling," Executive Director Chuck Patton says. "I felt it didn't constitute any kind of an ethical problem or situation and I contacted our commissioners and they agreed."

Patton says he, along with the commission's deputy director and chief of staff did nothing wrong by trying to win money for their favorite charity, which helps compulsive gamblers stop.

"It was not a regulated event," he says. "We did not regulate the charity event it was not gambling and therefore we didn't feel that it constituted any kind of ethical problem."

Patton said the Commission does not regulate charity events at casinos. But Max Arinder, PEER's executive director , disagrees.

"In fact they're responsible for the regulation of all casino based gambling whether it be for charity or for profit," Arinder says.

Arinder adds that he's not trying to indict the officials or cause any problems. He says Patton and the others violated their own policy which he calls bad practice.

"The reason this is important is because the commission has a responsibility of being completely without suspicion in its relationship with the gaming industry," Arinder says.

But Patton says he received an Attorney General's opinion which concluded the gaming officials did not violate ethics laws, and Patton says gaming commissioners will not take any disciplinary action against them.

PEER committee officials said they will not follow up to see if any disciplinary action will be taken. They said that is completely up to the commissioners.