RIDGELAND — The Mississippi Gaming Commission accepted today an examiner’s decision that a Ridgeland-based organization misused charitable gaming funds and ordered its DeSoto County bingo operation to shut down immediately.
In October, the commission denied a new license to the Fine Arts Institute of Mississippi, or FAIM. While that decision was under appeal, the charity was allowed to continue operating its Boxcar Bingo hall in Olive Branch.
The hearing examiner for the appeal found FAIM in violation of charitable gaming laws after it used charity money to buy software and to pay a lobbyist.
About 20 supporters of the charity, which promotes the arts and provides college scholarships, attended the commission meeting today. They did not address the panel.
“At this point in the process, the commission can only focus on what came before the hearing examiner,” Commission chairman Jerry St. Pe told the group.
The board must look at whether FAIM violated the charitable gaming regulations, not on the quality of the work the charity is doing, St. Pe said.
“We’ll concede the charity is good,” he said. “That is not what’s before this board.”
FAIM executive director Bill Murphy asked the commission to deny the examiner’s decision. However, the board accepted the decision on recommendation of the gaming commission staff.
FAIM plans an appeal in DeSoto County Circuit Court, according to FAIM attorney Eric Hamer.
The bingo hall, which has been open about three years, is FAIM’s main source of income.
A 2008 financial report shows FAIM took in $4.36 million with $158,194 going to charity. FAIM listed $331,454 as administrative expenses and $3.97 million as fund raising expenses. The 2008 report was the most recent available from the secretary of state’s office.
Under state law, charitable organizations can use 60 percent of their revenue to run the bingo parlor with the remaining 40 percent going to the charity.