Casino Operators’ Attempts for Getting Mississippi Gaming Commission’s Approval Could Be Successful under New Chairman Hopkins

A letter seems to be what is going to put an end of the lack of public controversy affecting the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The letter, written by the former executive director of the state’s gambling regulatory body Larry Gregory, reveals “serious concerns” regarding the regulation of Mississippi-based casinos since Al Hopkins took over the position of Gaming Commission’s chairman in 2015.

Currently, Mr. Gregory is executive director of the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association – an organization which represents the 26 casinos which offer their services in the state, including 12 on the Coast.

In a 6-page letter addressed to state Representative Casey Eure who heads the House Gaming Committee, the former chairman of the MGC shared his concern with the controversial engagement of the Commission to redirect a major part of its resources to help RW Development and Diamondhead Real Estate.

Both companies’ applications for casino site approval had been previously rejected by two different Gaming Commissions. First, it was RW Development which filed an application for casino site approval in 2008 and was not permitted because the company did not have control of the water’s edge-situated property. Then, in 2014, Diamondhead Real Estate once again got rejected for a casino site approval. Neither one of the rulings was appealed by the two companies, so the decisions of the Mississippi Gaming Commission became final.

Several Applications Have Been Filed by RW and DH So Far

The previous rejection did not block the companies from filing for site approval under the current Mississippi Gaming Commission, so “special hearings” took place in March 2017. At the time, the Commission’s executive director Allen Godfrey recommended another denial of the two sites and the recommendation was accepted by the MGC after a 3 to 0 vote.

This time, both RW Development and Diamondhead Real Estate appealed the decision and are waiting for the circuit court to make a ruling on the issue.

In June 2017, RW Development filed another application which was put on the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s agenda. According to the letter sent by Mr. Gregory to the state Representative Casey Eure, the new Commission’s Chairman announced that he would not allow the executive director to make a recommendation on RW’s third casino site approval application.

According to Mr. Gregory, this position of the chairman is not in line with the MGC’s own legal counsel. In addition, he claims that it violates the approval process which has been followed by the Commission for two decades and a half. As part of this process, a 3 to 0 vote from the commission is required when the executive director makes a recommendation for denial.

The letter claims that the Mississippi Gaming Commission has made an attempt to change the existing regulations in order to open some locations for casino establishments in Hancock and Harrison counties. According to Mr. Gregory, the MGC did not vote on the changes because of widespread opposition.

He further clarified that the fact local legislators gave the green light to House Bill 45 did not mean casino sites which were illegal prior to Hurricane Katrina would be permitted under the bill. During the state’s 2018 legislative session, Mississippi House and Senate passed a resolution under which a casino map on the Coast would be created in collaboration between the Secretary of State, the MGC, the Department of Marine Resources and the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER).

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