Moak: No new taxes for state’s casinos

by Associated Press

Published: January 25,2011

Tags: casinos, gambling, gaming, state government, taxes

JACKSON — The chairman of the Mississippi House Gaming Committee said Monday he expects no serious effort by lawmakers to increase casino taxes in Mississippi this year.

Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said if casino companies are deciding where to develop new projects, a change in tax rates could make Mississippi less competitive.

Casinos pay 8 percent to the state and up to 4 percent to local governments. That rate has been steady since gambling was legalized along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast in the early 1990s.

“When those folks sit around the board room and decide where to spend their money anywhere in the world, Mississippi won’t be on that list anymore,” Moak told reporters Monday after listening to a briefing about the casino industry.

Moak also said there’s “no political will” to let casinos offer betting on horse races or dog races.

Judith Phillips, a policy analyst with the Stennis Institute of Government, told lawmakers during the briefing Monday that so-called “racinos” — casinos that allow bets on racing — are a growing segment of the gaming industry nationwide.

Phillips prepared a report about Mississippi’s casino industry at the request of Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg.

The report does not make recommendations about any proposals for changes in taxes, regulations or laws governing casinos, Phillips said. Instead, it compares Mississippi to other states on taxation, casino employment and other statistics.

The Stennis Institute report says that among the 12 states with “commercial casinos,” not including racetrack casinos, Mississippi ranked fourth highest in gross casino revenues. The report also said Mississippi ranked third lowest among the 12 states for casino tax revenues.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, responded by telling lawmakers it’s unfair to compare Mississippi’s gaming revenue and tax figures to Louisiana’s because Louisiana limits the number of casino licenses. Gregory said Mississippi has always had a more “free-market” approach to casinos, similar to the approach taken by Nevada and New Jersey.

Gregory said he had not read the Stennis Institute report by Monday, but said he didn’t hear any new or unexpected information during the hourlong briefing Phillips gave to lawmakers.

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