Public hearing set on Choctaws plan for coast casino

Published 4:43 pm Friday, October 6, 2006

A proposal by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to put a casino in Jackson County will be the topic of an Oct. 18 hearing scheduled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The hearing, a federal requirement of their application to have 100 acres declared legal for gambling, is planned at the Ocean Springs Civic Center. It is a first step in the preparation of an environmental impact statement for the proposed casino, hotel and retail center.

The development would go east of Ocean Springs near the Interstate 10 and Mississippi 57 intersection.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The environmental impact statement will analyze traffic, air quality, threatened and endangered species, wildlife habitat and conservation areas, wetlands, water supply, wastewater disposal, solid waste disposal and socioeconomic impacts.

The proposal is opposed by Gov. Haley Barbour, who has said he does not want to see the expansion of gaming in Mississippi beyond the counties where it now exists.

“Jackson County does not have gaming, and, in fact, the voters of Jackson County have voted against allowing casino gaming in the county,” Barbour said in a June 22 letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Therefore, I oppose this proposal and, indeed, any proposal to expand gaming into Jackson County, whether under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or under Mississippi’s gaming laws.”

Chief Phillip Martin said last year the tribe would be looking to opening a gambling facility on the coast. He has asked the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to hold a nonbinding referendum during the 2008 presidential election to determine if there is support for an Indian casino.

Within a month after Hurricane Katrina, Martin proposed putting a bingo-based gambling operation in Jackson County instead of a full-fledged casino. He later withdrew the request.

The proposal now calls for a Las Vegas-style casino, which would require negotiating a compact with the governor.

The 1992 compact signed by Gov. Kirk Fordice and Martin that allows the Choctaws to operate Vegas-style casinos applies only to their reservation lands near Philadelphia.

They pay $250,000 a year to the state for tourism promotion to operate the Silver Slipper and the Golden Moon. The Choctaws are not required to pay any money to the state and local governments near the casinos under terms of the covenant.

Information from: The Sun Herald,