Aldermen discuss getting help on casino issue

Published 12:49 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NATCHEZ — While some of the Natchez Board of Aldermen members do not see eye-to-eye on the Roth Hill casino issue, the board agreed on one thing at Tuesday’s meeting: it needs help.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard brought up the casino issue during his report near end of the meeting.

He made a motion to appoint Natchez, Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ as the point-person between the city and Premier Gaming to take over the negotiations and find some answers.

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Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said was reluctant to hand over her responsibility as a board member to Natchez, Inc. because Roth Hill is city-owned property.

She said the board started the project and should finish it — whether the outcome is good or bad.

“But I think we need some assistance, I really do,” Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said.

She said the board might benefit from hiring a lawyer with experience in the gaming field or simply by appealing to the gaming commission for help.

“We could go to the gaming commission and (admit) we don’t know what we are doing down here,” she said.

She said the board has made mistakes with gaming industry issues in the past, which reflects their difficulty those types of decisions.

Ward 3 Bob Pollard said he agreed with Arceneaux-Mathis that the project should not be handed over to Natchez, Inc., which might not be willing or able to take it on.

“We haven’t even discussed it with Natchez, Inc.,” Pollard said.

Middleton suggested Russ become involved with the project alongside the administration and board rather than take completely over.

After the discussion, Dillard said he wanted to withdraw his motion.

Mayor Jake Middleton said the gaming commission’s experienced investigators, which he compared an FBI type of professionalism, should reveal if problems exist with the developers.

Dillard said he spoke to a deputy from the gaming commission recently and was told Premier Gaming did not make the agenda for the commission’s November meeting because the company “could not provide sufficient information that their finances are in place.”

Middleton said the gaming commission’s December meeting should provide the board with some answers and help determine the next step.

“It’s been turned into the gaming commission. If there’s a problem with financing and its investigated and all thrown back (off the December agenda) — that’s another issue,” Middleton said.