Jones supervisors may oppose local Choctaw casino

Philadelphia, Mississippi (AP) July 2010

The election commission of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has rejected a petition that sought an election on expansion of tribal gaming into Jones County.

Choctaws spokesman Warren Strain tells The Neshoba Democrat that the election commission unanimously found that it had no authority to move ahead with an election because the petition was improperly filed.

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

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 in Sandersville, northeast of Laurel.

It is expected to be equipped with 500 to 700 slot machines. It would be a $17 million investment, employing about 250 people.

Gov. Haley Barbour has asked Attorney General Jim Hood to take legal action to try to block the development because he is not for expanding gaming beyond where it is presently and the facility would draw on low-to-moderate-income people and that could have a negative impact.

The Choctaw casinos operate under a 1992 Tribal Compact negotiated by former Gov. Kirk Fordice.

Strain said the Tribe expects the casino to be built. He said the decision is rooted in the Choctaws’ philosophy of self-determination and is in the best interest of the Tribe.

Meanwhile, the Jones County Board of Supervisors has asked its attorney to draft a resolution opposing the casino.

Jones County Administrator Charles Miller said the board heard this week from opponents to the casino. He said board attorney Wayne Thompson was working on the resolution.

“They (supervisors) discussed in principle what they felt and he (Thompson) is going to put it into a resolution,” Miller told the Laurel Leader-Call. “In general, they’re opposed to it for economic reasons. They feel it would be an economic detriment to the county.”

Allan Nix, director of missions for the Jones County Baptist Association, and others said the casino was not a good thing for Jones County.

“I’m all for self-determination, which Chief (Philip) Martin used effectively,” Nix said. “But, that’s not an exclusive right for the Choctaws. The people of Jones County should have the right to voice what’s in their best interests. More than likely the casino will not generate any more revenue, and instead increase expenses for infrastructure and law enforcement.”

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

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.