Mississippi Gaming Commission chair Al Hopkins dies

Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Al Hopkins, who as chairman of the Mississippi Gaming Commission presided over significant change in the gambling industry, has died. He was 81.

Hopkins, a longtime Gulfport attorney, died Sunday, the commission’s office confirmed in a statement Tuesday. A cause of death was not provided. Hopkins was in his third term as chairman after being reconfirmed last year by the state Senate.

“The Mississippi Gaming Commission family is saddened by the passing of Chairman Hopkins, and was honored to have him lead this agency the past eight years,” Executive Director Jay McDaniel said in a statement. “In deference to the family, we are not issuing any further statement at this time.”

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Hopkins chaired the commission during a time of significant change for the gambling industry, with many states easing rules on when and where gambling can take place and legalizing sports betting, The Clarion Ledger reported.

In Mississippi, sports betting must take place on casino property. The state House passed a bill earlier this session that would create a taskforce to study mobile sports betting. The gaming commission’s executive director, or someone he appoints, would serve on that panel if the bill becomes law.

After two relatively routine confirmations, Hopkins faced some opposition last year for not committing to keeping rules on casino locations the same. Sen. David Blount, a Democrat from Jackson, who chairs the Senate gaming committee, had opposed Hopkins’ confirmation after voting for him previously.

That opposition led to a social media fight with Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. Still, the confirmation reached the chamber floor and was supported by all but eight senators.

Hopkins, who would have turned 82 on Tuesday, had chaired the commission since 2015.

A former assistant adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, Hopkins retired from the military with the rank of major general. He founded his own law firm, Hopkins, Barvié & Hopkins, in 1977 in Gulfport and served for 13 years as chief judge of the Court of Military Appeals.

A 1963 graduate of Delta State University, Hopkins earned bachelor’s degrees in history and English. In 1965 he received his juris doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He later received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from William Carey University.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth, and two children.

Funeral arrangements were pending.