Why must casinos float in Mississippi?

If anyone can tell us why casinos in Mississippi have to be built on barges, we'd appreciate knowing.

We realize, of course, that water-based gambling came about in Mississippi, Illinois, Louisiana and other states as political compromises to keep them from spreading to more-conservative towns and counties.

Nevertheless, it makes about as much sense as requiring Nevada casinos to be built on stilts 10 feet above the ground. All it does, we suppose, is make these dens of sin more susceptible to God's wrath.

And that was certainly demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina, which tossed barge-based casinos into the laps of their neighbors. The state's largest, the 134,500-square-foot Grand Casino Biloxi, is likely a $9 billion loss for Harrah's Entertainment.

Now, as the Mississippi Legislature convenes in special session and all kinds of industries prepare to rebuild, the question of allowing casinos to be built on land is resurfacing - and being opposed by gambling foes.

As Nevadans, we don't really need the competition. But we still can't see the logic behind handicapping the gaming industry by forcing it to build on water.

Nevada has a number of restrictions on where casinos may be built, mostly governed by zoning laws. Another example of the wages of sin, the brothel industry, is allowed on a county-by-county basis in the Silver State.

The most common means of hampering the spread of gambling is simply to tax the bejesus out of it, as is done in Illinois with its maximum rate of 70 percent. Some operators can still make money, but if competition comes along the tax rate is almost certainly a death knell for one of them.

Mississippi legislators might as well decide where they will allow gaming and where they won't - on dry land.


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