Mississippi Choctaws End Contract with Mercury Gaming
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has discontinued its contract with the Atlanta, Georgia-based advertising agency listed in the July 12 FBI search warrant when some 40 FBI agents raided the tribe’s Pearl River Resort, reported The Clarion-Ledger.
According to WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi, the raid was “likely” related to former Choctaw Chief Beasley Denson and Mercury Gaming of Atlanta. Its affiliated marketing arm, The Titan Agency, manages the tribe’s Pearl River Resort. A website report by the station’s Cheryl Lassiter says that sources told her Denson had been paying Mercury Gaming chief executive Doug Pattison $60,000 per month—an amount that increased to $250,000 in February. The tribal council was reportedly unaware of these high payouts.
Another newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat, quoted “multiple sources” as saying the FBI investigation could have been about alleged election fraud.
Denson is currently embroiled in an intense re-election fight, in which Mercury Gaming has become a key campaign issue, reported The Clarion-Ledger.
"After much deliberation, it has been decided the Titan Agency will be stepping down as our resorts advertising agency," Denson announced on his Facebook page, reported The Clarion-Ledger. "Their group has been the center of much debate and while I appreciate their efforts, if the tribe wants us to look in another direction for our advertising services, we will. We are constantly reviewing the contracts we have with all of our resort vendors and will continue to look for the best services at the most reasonable prices."
Denson's main opponent Phyliss J. Anderson would have taken office July 12 in the chief’s $466,000 salary position except for a council vote that negated that election and called for a new one September 6.
Anderson has been critical of the millions the tribe has spent with Mercury and the Atlanta Braves, vowing to terminate the contracts if she takes office. The tribe spent "eight figures" in a multi-year deal to sponsor the Atlanta Braves since 2008, reported The Clarion-Ledger. "The Lexus Level" at Turner Field was renamed "The Golden Moon Casino Level." Yet the payoff has proven minimal: less than 4 percent of customers are making the trip from Atlanta to play their luck at the tribal casinos in northern Mississippi.