Jackson Co. to ask lawmakers to OK vote on Choctaw casino

Published 5:26 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jackson County officials will ask the Mississippi Legislature for permission to hold a nonbinding election on a proposed Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians casino.

The tribe is proposing to put a casino along Mississippi 57.

“We’re asking the Legislature for this one issue this one time,” said board president Tim Broussard.

The election would be held on Nov. 6, the same date as Mississippi’s general election.

Broussard said the ballot would ask voters if they are opposed to gaming in Jackson County and if they are opposed to Indian gaming in the county.

Supervisors said approval by the Legislature would eliminate the need for a petition to get the issue on a ballot. They also said it would eliminate the need for an attorney general’s opinion on the issue of whether the county can hold a nonbinding referendum on an issue over which it has no jurisdiction.

Board attorney Paula Yancey said the issue of holding a a nonbinding vote concerning casinos is cut and dry.

“They can’t do it unless the Legislature says they can,” Yancy said. “It’s that simple.”

Whether the Choctaws can put a casino on the property is up to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs with input from the governor. Gov. Haley Barbour has said he is opposed to putting casinos where local residents are opposed to them.

The Choctaws propose a $375 million casino resort on 100 acres of land they own. It would be the first casino greeting travelers heading west from Florida and Alabama.

A nonbinding vote could make the decision for the Choctaws as Tribal Chief Philip Martin has said he will not put a casino in Jackson County if it’s not wanted.

Jackson County, which borders Alabama, is the only one of Mississippi’s three coastal counties without casinos.

Jackson County voted down gaming more than 17 years ago prior to its passage in Harrison County.