Monday, June 7 2011 :The outgoing Mississippi land gaming regulator may need to brush up on internet gambling
Larry Gregory, the departing regulator of Mississippi's land gambling operations, appears in need of a 101 course on internet gambling, judging by his ill-informed comments on the pastime at a luncheon in Jackson this week.
On Gregory's watch has seen expansion associated with land gambling in the state, with more planned in the future, and he used his speech at the lunch to warn on future challenges in keeping gambling revenues up, according to an Associated Press report.
Gregory bemoaned the increase in competition from land gambling in other states, but seemed especially aggrieved at the threat of online gambling, which he argued was illegal by both state and federal law.
Gregory, who headed the Mississippi Gambling Commission, said that Mississippi's "conservative approach" to gambling – avoiding racier-themed slot machines and restricting locations to within 800 feet of waterfronts, for example – means the state is unlikely to sanction online gambling within its borders anytime soon.
Despite missing out on a piece of what could be a billion-dollar market, Gregory endorsed a continued ban in Mississippi, claiming that internet gambling carries a risk of online security breaches and would make wagering too accessible, fostering addiction problems.
He said that online casinos could also open up gambling to minors.
"That is a scary, scary thing," said Gregory. "And how are you going to stop it? To me, I don't think you can."
Yet when it comes to land gambling, Mississippi has the fourth largest gambling industry in the United States, with over a $2.5 billion market employing roughly 20,000 people.
Revenues from land gambling have in recent years been hit by natural disasters and the economic recession, Associated Press reports. In April 2011, casinos across Mississippi earned $189 million in revenue, compared to $195 million in April 2006 — before the Great Recession is considered to have started — and $222 million in April 2005.
Gregory wants to find other ways to help the land industry compete, especially since Mississippi is unlikely to sanction online gambling within its own borders or promote brick-and-mortar casinos to its own citizens.
"We cannot exist on bringing people to play blackjack anymore," he said, adding that Mississippi will need to invest heavily in other tourism attractions — such as convention centers, water parks and racing tracks – preferably near its waterfront casinos.
"There's been talk on the coast, but also Tunica, of bringing some mega race track into the facilities," he said, describing future development – but only for land gambling.
"We've got 10 approved sites down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In addition, we just approved the Margaritaville with Jimmy Buffett. That was very, very exciting."