With a winning hand like this, casinos do not have to bluff - Wednesday 16th of May 2007

You do not have to be a cheerleader for casinos to applaud the conduct of the gaming industry in Mississippi.

Since the first casino opened in Biloxi on Aug. 1, 1992, more than $30 billion in revenue has flowed through the states casinos on the Coast and along the Mississippi River. And nearly $4 billion of that has been paid in state and local taxes:

--More than $2 billion has gone into the states General Fund.

--More than half-a-billion dollars has gone to pay off bonds used to build casino-related highways.

--More than $1.25 billion has gone to local governments where casinos are located.

Yet there has not been -- in nearly 15 years -- so much as a hint of scandal connected to all those billions.

And as last weeks record-setting Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi confirmed, the future looks even brighter for the gaming industry in Hancock and Harrison counties.

That future depends on the same solid foundation that has been in place since the Legislature legalized casino operations in 1990.

Mississippi has been steadfast in providing a stable environment for the highly competitive gaming industry. For that, we are indebted to:

--The Mississippi Legislature, which has remained remarkably level-headed in its regulation and taxation of the industry.

--The Mississippi Gaming Commission, which has from the beginning admirably fulfilled its mission "to ensure the utmost integrity of gaming in the state of Mississippi."

--Gov. Haley Barbour, who helped the industry cope with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and who is determined that the industry continues to operate in an even-handed manner.

--The casinos themselves, who have from the beginning operated as responsible corporate citizens and become assets to their communities.

The skyline of South Mississippi is etched with the success of this endeavor undertaken so modestly so long ago. And, we believe, even more astonishing developments are on the verge of being unveiled.

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