|Doug Pattison, of Mercury Gaming|
An FBI investigation of Mississippi Choctaw gaming facilities involves the tribe's ties to two Atlanta companies.
Mercury Gaming Group and its marketing arm, the Titan Agency, are a focus of the investigation, according to a new report from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Federal authorities raided the Silver Star and Grand Moon casinos near Philadelphia, Mississippi, last Tuesday.
The raid has drawn strong interest in Alabama, largely because of reports that the Choctaws spent some $13 million, funneled through GOP felon Jack Abramoff, to help Republican Bob Riley get elected governor in 2002. Riley's apparent desire to protect the Choctaws' market share by keeping gaming out of Alabama helped spark a federal electronic-bingo prosecution that is ongoing in Montgomery.
It remains unknown if the FBI investigation will focus on Bush-era political prosecutions and election irregularities in the Deep South. But it is known that the Titan Agency is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, meaning the company started in 2001, at the outset of the George W. Bush administration. Titan apparently is thriving, as it recently announced a planned move to an office complex in the upscale Buckhead area.
Miko Beasley Denson, chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, revealed the FBI's interest in the Atlanta companies. Reports the Clarion-Ledger:
Denson, in a contentious battle to win re-election as chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, spoke publicly for the first time about the ongoing investigation in which dozens of FBI agents descended on the casinos at Pearl River Resort, taking documents and hard drives.
Denson told The Clarion-Ledger the FBI's search warrant mentioned Atlanta-based Mercury Gaming Group and its marketing arm, the Titan Agency, but said he has no idea what the investigation is examining.
Mercury manages the Choctaws' Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia and Bok Homa casino in Jones County. The tribe pays Mercury CEO Doug Pattison more than $2.4 million a year and has inked multimillion-dollar marketing deals with the firm.
How did the Choctaws' ties to Mercury/Titan get the FBI's attention?
The FBI investigation is exploring the relationship between the tribe and Pattison. On Mercury's website, Pattison takes credit for growing revenues as CEO of the Silver Star Casino to more than $250 million.
Denson said Paul Harvey is the current CEO. Neither Harvey nor Pattison could be reached Tuesday for comment.
"It's untimely," Denson, 61, said of the probe. "A business has to go through difficult situations. We're no different than any other business. We maintain a good operation."