Gaming Commision Executive Director Jay McDaniel (left) stands with Gaming Commissioner and Indianola Rotarian Tom Gresham after Tuesday’s meeting.
Casinos have long been a part of the Magnolia State horizon and new gambling or gaming activities have been added. Since 1990, when legal gambling was initiated in the state, the industry has seen waves of growth and series of declines. Executive Director Jay McDaniel of the Mississippi Gaming Commission was the guest speaker this week for the Indianola Rotary Club to give an update and overview of the state’s gaming industry.
“We don’t promote it but whatever the casinos offer, we regulate it,” McDaniel said.
He noted that all individuals are vetted no matter if it’s a small business or large corporation-run casino. The Gaming Commission works to keep the industry on the up and up and “out of the news.”
Some of the facts he disclosed included that over the life of a slot machine, “it has to pay out at least 80%.”
The Mississippi Gaming Industry generates $2.2 billion on average each year and hit $2.6 billion this past year.
“Of that $2.6 billion, the tax rate is 12% and 8% of that goes to the state, around $160 – $180 million to the coffer. The other 4% goes to the local city and county where the casino is located,” he said. “That 8% goes to the general fund in the state and the legislature decides what to do with that. The 4% depends on the locale. They can distribute it differently.”
The lottery is not regulated by the Gaming Commission but is regulated by the Lottery Corporation which decides what games are to be used, according to McDaniel.
“Lottery money is earmarked. The first $85 million is earmarked for roads and bridges. Everything above that is for education,” he said. “Lotteries are doing well. Casinos are doing well. We’re seeing numbers we haven’t seen since 2008.”
A new gaming segment is Sports Betting that came online when the federal ban was dismissed.
The commission made rules that sports betting had to be done on casino property. He noted that several states surrounding Mississippi have allowed sports betting recently.
“Our casinos had $360 million the first two years. The last year we had $600 million in sports betting,” he said. “It’s one thing that casinos can’t control. They put a line out there and hope they have it right.”
The Gaming Commission has 100 employees and a budget of $9 million and regulates 26 casinos and 95 bingo parlors around the Magnolia State, according to McDaniel.
Working to keep up with technology is one of the biggest hurdles his office has to face. He believes that casinos will move more toward a cashless casino with tickets being used and a coming electronic wallet to keep up with winnings.
“Beyond that, we have 26 properties that do well,” he said. “All of them are healthy and revenue numbers are up.”
The commission does not regulate Indian casinos and they do not share their winnings with the state.
A question was asked about Tunica’s gaming.
“Tunica at one time had 12 casinos (now it has six) and was the third largest gaming site in the country,” he said. “The recession of 2008 and the flood of 2011 closed a lot. Folks didn’t come back. It has stabilized now. The Arkansas market also hurt Tunica.”
Illegal gambling still exists across the state and McDaniel has a team, CID, that works to crack down on these events as they do not pay any tax monies.
“The Criminal Investigative Division still go out and look for that,” he said. “They are very common. What we typically do is if we get a call because somebody lost all their money in one of these, we work with local law enforcement. Anytime you see one, feel free to call us.”
Home poker games were covered and yes, are illegal, according to McDaniel. But they look for the larger games and not just a couple of players. After shutting down for COVID for two months, McDaniel noted there is a shortage of dealers working. The industry has about 15,000 employees statewide.
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