New legislature may hurt Miss casinos

Aug 13, 2002 12:47 PM

A changing of the guard in the Mississippi legislature could be higher taxes for the state’s casinos.

"These new individuals will have no allegiances and they’re liable to do anything," said Giselle Russell, president of Jackson-based Strategies, Inc., who has lobbied for Beau Rivage.

"Because the gaming areas of the state are not representative of the vast majority of individuals, most of these new legislators will be from non-gaming areas."

According to a study released earlier this year by the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast, a 3 percent hike in the gross gaming tax would shut down seven casinos around the state. That figure includes three on the Coast.

"Putting off the threat of tax increases is not going to be quite as easy as in the past," Russell said. "The advocates of the industry need to be vigilant."

The legislative turnover could come from the possible retirement of House Speaker Tim Ford.

"The other thing is tort reform," said Scott Levanway, a lobbyist who lists as his clients President Casino, Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg and the Mississippi State Port at Gulfport. "That caused the business community to be more organized."