Members of Mississippi Choctaw want tribe to vote on casino

Philadelphia, Mississippi (AP) June 2010

Some members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws Indians are calling for a tribe-wide vote on a planned expansion of gaming into Jones County.

The Tribal Council approved the casino near Sandersville on an 8-7 vote on June 8.

A petition application calling for the election was presented to the office of Chief Beasley Denson earlier this month. Tribal officials confirmed that they had received it.

“We have received the petition application,” Choctaws spokesman Warren Strain told the Laurel Leader-Call. “We are not surprised by it. The same thing happened with the Golden Moon. It’s an expected part of the process.”

The Golden Moon casino was constructed and opened in Philadelphia in 2002, despite the petition. It became the tribe’s second casino to open in Philadelphia, the first being the Silver Star in 1994.

The proposed Bogue Homa casino would be the first casino built outside the tribal headquarters in Neshoba County. The tribe is considering building a 27,000-square-foot casino. It is expected to be equipped with 500 to 700 slot machines. It would be a $17 million investment, employing about 250 people.

Tribal members Vickie Rangel, Austin Tubby and Bobbie Frazier filed the application.

Rangel said she and others collected signatures from 30 percent of the qualified voters in the tribe. She said the gathering the signatures is the first step in filing the petition application. The next step was to present the documents to the chief’s office and then on to the Choctaw Tribal Election Committee for approval.

“The council members voting against the resolution supported having a referendum election so the will of the people could be determined due to the controversial nature of the issue.

“Our Tribal Constitution affords the tribal members the reserved right to approve or reject at the polls any resolution adopted by the Tribal Council through a referendum election. We are prepared to fully support the outcome of the referendum election whatever the result may be,” Rangel said.

Gov. Haley Barbour has asked Attorney General Jim Hood to take legal action to try to block the development.

The Choctaw casinos are not regulated by the state. Mississippi has 30 state-regulated casinos that operate along the waters of the Mississippi River and along the Gulf Coast.