Casino Lawsuit Irks Lawmakers

A lawsuit filed by two Biloxi casinos over taxes they pay to dock on state waters created a backlash Thursday from a legislative budget committee starved for tax revenue. Secretary of State Eric Clark says Imperial Palace and Treasure Bay Casino are trying to get out of paying to use water owned by the public. Clark oversees the lease program.

The 12 casinos on the coast pay almost five million dollars in leases. During his budget presentation yesterday, Clark told legislators that the lawsuit puts the funding under attack. State Representative Billy McCoy, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he was tired of seeing the state general fund drained by those trying to get out of paying up.

Lawmakers said they have been ``overly generous'' to casinos in the past, but later in the day backed away from the possibility of raising taxes on Mississippi's 30 state-regulated casinos. McCoy said the casinos knew the leases were in place before they came to Mississippi.