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What Do New Mississippi Gaming Commissioners Mean for the Agency and the Industry?

Posted: Apr 1, 2015

On March 31, 2015, the Mississippi Senate approved Gov. Phil Bryant’s three nominees to the Mississippi Gaming Commission.  While congratulations are in order for all three, what will this mean for the Commission and for the gaming industry in Mississippi?

While no one predicts any changes to the Commission staff, a majority of the three member Commission will change immediately with the additions of Al Hopkins and Jerry Griffith.  These two new Commissioners will make their debut at the Commission meeting set for April 16, 2015.  Moreover, on October 1 of this year, Nolen Canon will hand the Chairman’s gavel to Tom Gresham.

A seasoned and veteran Commission staff ensures continuity and consistency in gaming regulation, something that is welcomed by the industry.  However, it is no surprise that each group of Commissioners has its own personality, based upon the nature of the members of the Commission and their backgrounds and experience.

This new Commission will be similar to, but different in many respects from those in the past.

First of all, for the first time since Len Blackwell chaired the Commission, an attorney, Al Hopkins, will sit on the Commission.

Second, Jerry Griffith is the first African American to serve on the Commission since Howard Sanders did many years ago.  Mr. Griffith also has the experience of a career in the Internal Revenue Service working on anti-money laundering issues.

Lastly, Chairman designee Tom Gresham is the first “legacy” to serve on the Commission, following the service many years ago of his own father, Bill Gresham, as Chairman.

Any time you have a change in leadership of a regulatory body such as the Mississippi Gaming Commission, questions are raised about changes in direction for the agency.  Will there be any changes at all?  If so, what will those changes be?

Will a former IRS agent ask the Commission staff to focus more on money laundering issues, CTRs and SARs?  Will an attorney Commissioner seek changes for more structured and formal processes and meetings?  Will the new Chairman draw upon the experience of his successful business career in helping steer the agency?  Will the Commissioners be pro-development or move more cautiously in that regard?

These and many other questions will be answered in due time.  All three new Commissioners bring a variety of talents and valuable expertise to the Commission, and this group appears to have the potential to be a very good team.  We wish them well in their new roles regulating the Mississippi gaming industry.  The new Commissioners will have a steep learning curve, but they appear to be up to the task.

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