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City needs plan for casino money

With a flick of the wrist today a ribbon will be cut, and with another few flicks dice will roll and cards will be dealt at Natchez’s newest casino.

When Magnolia Bluffs Casino opens, the City of Natchez begins receiving a $1 million annual lease payment for the casino’s use of the city-owned Roth Hill site. A large portion of the first payment has already been received in smaller monthly payments over the last few months.

A handful of public servants who are no longer directly in the spotlight deserve credit for seeing the casino become a reality.

First, among Natchez’s most civic-minded physicians, the late Dr. David Steckler, was one of the folks who first thought, “Natchez could benefit from riverboat gaming.” He, in turn, convinced former Sen. Bob M. Dearing to propose the measure, which passed statewide in the early 1990s.

Flash forward several years, and former mayors Phillip West and Jake Middleton deserve credit for doggedly not letting go of the project — in Middleton’s case, perhaps to his own political demise.

For all of those men’s efforts, Natchez is about to be $1 million per year richer.

The challenge — and the opportunity — is: How will the Natchez Board of Aldermen spend the money?

Prudent saving could yield big investments that could be paid without further public debt — recreation complex, new city jail, etc.

We suggest they follow wise advice financial planners give to individuals — first and foremost save up an emergency fund.

At the moment, Natchez has none, choosing instead to live hand to mouth, running to the bank year after year to borrow against uncollected property tax receipts.

That’s no way to run a fiscally sound city, particularly when a $1 million gift horse just walked up Roth Hill Road.