LAUREL — The man who will oversee the operations of the Bok Homa Casino near Sandersville is no stranger to Mississippi gaming.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul Harvey was the first executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Harvey was hired by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in November 2007.
Harvey, 73, who currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Pearl River Resort, is credited with guiding the resort through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The resort consists of the Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos, Dancing Rabbit Golf Club and Geyser Falls Water Park in Philadelphia.
The Silver Star Casino opened in 1994. Golden Moon casino opened in Philadelphia in 2002 and Bok Homa is scheduled to open in December. The 27,000-square-foot Bok Homa Casino, located in the Bogue Homa Community near Sandersville, will be the first casino built outside Neshoba County.
Mississippi’s first casino opened in the summer of 1992. At that time Harvey had the distinct challenge of starting an entire industry from scratch with a newly formed state agency.
“We took over the state Gaming Commission with minimal funding,” said Harvey. “The first thing we had to do was to go to the legislature for an emergency, out-of-session appropriation so we could operate.”
Gaming is a nearly $3 billion annual business in Mississippi.
Industry insiders point to the Nevada-modeled Gaming Control Act and the associated regulatory set-up as the major reason for Mississippi’s gaming success in the early days. They say Mississippi’s approach was different from other states with laws and regulations designed to aid the industry’s growth and expansion.
The Gaming Commission developed a regional, national and international reputation of integrity.
“Some people associated the regulatory agency with the industry,” said Harvey. “However, our mission was to make sure that the casino operators followed the laws, rules and regulations to protect the citizens. We accomplished that without creating a hostile environment, so the industry grew and the state reaped the maximum benefits from it.”
Harvey now serves on the board of directors of Riviera Holdings Corporation (parent of the Riviera Hotel and Casino) and is a compliance adviser to Dubai World’s gaming interests in Las Vegas. He is a past board member of Progressive Gaming International and Elixir Corporation.
Harvey served 32 years in the Air Force. Harvey held command positions at the Pentagon, in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He flew 160 combat missions in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Harvey also served as an executive in residence and assistant to the president of William Carey College and taught management and leadership as a part of their masters degree program.
Harvey is a graduate of Miami University (Ohio) and has a masters degree from Central Michigan University. He is also a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington D.C.