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Mississippi Baptists opposing changes in casino laws

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–The Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention is calling on Mississippi Baptists to oppose all measures that would benefit the gambling industry during the special session of the Mississippi Legislature dealing with Hurricane Katrina issues.

Legislators opened the special session Sept. 27.

“Our opposition to gambling in any form is well-documented, and that position has not and will not change,” wrote CAC Executive Director Jimmy Porter in a letter mailed Sept. 16 to all legislators. “We maintain that it is not a healthy and wholesome industry for our state, and the perceived benefits are offset by the hardships it brings to bear upon our citizens.”

Porter staked out several positions in his letter to legislators:

— Casinos should remain over water, as state law now demands.

“Legislation last year gave casinos permission to build permanent structures in the Gulf. Time has not allowed this law to be implemented and already changes are being proposed,” Porter wrote. “The fear of our constituents is that once the casinos are land-based, attempts to move inward to other locations will follow.”

— A statewide referendum should be held to allow the people of Mississippi to vote on any land-based gambling proposals.

“Most of the 700,000 Mississippi Baptists, along with other non-Baptists, continue to feel that our legislators betrayed their trust by bringing gambling into our state without giving them a voice,” Porter pointed out. “We will be asking our membership to contact their senators and representatives asking for a statewide referendum to determine whether or not casinos should be land-based.”

— Taxes should be increased on casinos to bring Mississippi in line with other states.

“Mississippi’s tax is the third lowest in the nation. If placed on land, insurance costs would be less; therefore, their profits will be higher,” Porter stated.

— Share the gambling tax bounty collected by host counties among all 82 Mississippi counties.

“It is unfair for a few counties to have new schools, buses, band, halls, etc., while other counties struggle to meet basic student needs,” Porter wrote. “Citizens in all counties gamble; therefore, these other counties should be reimbursed for lost tax revenue due to monies spent at casinos.”

— Reevaluate the role of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

“It is important to the integrity of the whole process. … Recent statements and actions indicate a shift from regulating the gambling industry to promoting it. They are not employees of the gambling industry and should not act as such,” he wrote.

“It is unfortunate that the gambling industry and its proponents are using the terrible human tragedy brought on by Hurricane Katrina to expand its own interests within our state. This is not an issue we pursued but one [from which] we cannot back down ….”

Porter followed up with a Sept. 19 letter to Mississippi Baptist pastors and church leaders, in which he called upon them to ask members of their congregations to contact legislators to let them know of Mississippi Baptists’ position against expanded gambling in the state.

“It is imperative that you ask your membership to get on the phones now. We cannot walk away from this issue,” the letter stated.

To obtain the name, mailing address and telephone number of individual senators and representatives, Mississippi citizens should contact the circuit clerk’s office in their county of residence. Information on individual senators and representatives can also be obtained at www.ls.state.ms.us, or by calling the Mississippi House of Representatives at (601) 359-3360 and the Senate at (601) 359-3229.
This article first appeared in the Mississippi Baptist Record, online at www.mbcb.org/resource_services/br/current.aspx

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  • William H. Perkins Jr., Baptist Record