Casino gambling has been legal in Mississippi for almost 15 years and is an important part of the state's economy, but the state never has come to terms with it politically.
A simple bill to allow hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast casinos to build on land threatened to erupt into a major political battle in the Legislature. The issue is critical for the Coast gaming industry, which provides 14,000 jobs and $500,000 a day in tax revenue.
There is a significant population of the state that remains adamantly opposed to any form of gaming. These voters, mostly driven by moral and religious views, are suspicious of anything to do with the industry. Since gaming was passed stealthily in the first place, they might have good reason. At the same time, polls have shown majority support for a state lottery.
The Coast casino fight showed how conflicted the politics can be and how much pressure can be brought to bear on anything involving gaming.
Also the industry itself is divided. Companies seek to expand sites and gain advantage while the status quo industry seeks to hold its franchise.
All of these things add up to gridlock when it comes to logical attempts at expansion or enhancement of the industry or even efforts to adjust the tax structure on the industry, which remains as it has since the beginning.
Mississippi has done a lot of things right when it comes to development of the gaming industry. It is apparent that any dramatic changes to improve it will be difficult, if not impossible. The politics of gaming are just too much of a gamble for elected officials. That's a sure bet for the squeamish, but not very good for public policy.