Attorneys for Imperial Palace and Treasure Bay say Secretary of State Eric Clark doesn't need to be involved in the suit because it centers around a tax dispute. The county's lawsuit brings up two issues: taxes and tidelands.
Harrison County asked Clark to intervene because the question goes beyond casino property taxes. The county and Clark argue Mississippi's public trust tidelands are at stake. Imperial Palace says it owns a parcel of land on which it sits; the Secretary of State says it doesn't. Treasure Bay's attorney says they're not really involved in the border issue, but are only concerned with how much tax the casino should pay.
Either way, attorneys say there are many important questions that need to be decided.
"It's time to litigate these matters, are the leases exhorbitant, are they making the casinos lease more than they have to lease, should they be taxed after they've already been taxed for the upland property? There are a lot of tough issues here. We might as well sort them out," Imperial Palace Attorney Britt Singletary said.
"Even if they own the land they don't own the tidelands, they don't own the submerged lands, they don't own the public waters and even if they were to succeed on the title question which we don't think they will they don't have the right without payment of taxes, without payment of lease rentals to utilize the tidelands trust which is exactly what they're trying to do," James Robertson, an attorney with the secretary of state's office, said.
Judge Wes Teel consolidated this lawsuit with a similiar suit that Imperial Palace filed three years ago against the secretary of state. The trial was to begin on Sept. 4th, but Thursday Teel set aside two weeks, beginning Dec. 10th to hear the case.