Essentially the industry will be paying to regulate itself through the fees assessed for licensing, work permits, inspections and equipment, said Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
On March 25, the commission filed the proposed fees with the Secretary of State’s Office for a 30-day public review period. After that, the commission will consider public comment, make any changes it deems necessary and then put the final proposal up for another 30-day review. After that, commissioners will vote for final adoption.
The move to a more industry-driven funding was contained in a bill signed March 24 by Gov. Haley Barbour. The bill required the Commission to set fees at a level that will allow it to do its job without using any money from the state budget.
Previously, the Commission’s budget was 70 percent fee-based with the other 30 percent coming from the state.
When Mississippi’s casino industry was in its infancy, the state fully funded the commission. But over the years, as casinos in the state have grown, so has the percentage funded by fees and fines.
The casino industry in Mississippi is strictly regulated. Each casino is licensed. Background checks and work permits are required for all employees. Key executives, including those who live out of state, must be licensed. Even landlords must be found suitable by the board. Investigations are required on equipment that is manufactured or placed in the state.
With all these things come fees. Previously the commission charged an hourly fee for casino investigations. Under the proposed cost restructuring, a flat fee will now be charged to licensees.
For those licensees with 1,500 or more gaming devices, the fee will be $325,000 a year. For those with 1,000 to 1,499 gaming devices, the fee will be $250,000 a year. For those with less than 1,000 devices, the fee will be $150,000 per year.
The fees for manufacturers and individuals remain unchanged. They include a corporate and investigations fee of $80 an hour plus expenses; an inspections/tracking fee of $100 per machine and work permit fees of $75, plus $125 per renewal.
Mississippi has 30 state licensed casinos and about 60 licensed manufactures and distributors.