Ministers won’t push for gaming vote

Published 6:46 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ministers won’t push for gaming vote

PASCAGOULA (AP) — A group of ministers will not pressure the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to hold an election on gaming, instead waiting for the legislative cycle to play out.

Carl King, spokesman for Jackson County United for Families, said Supervisor Frank Leach had asked the group Friday to give the board two or three weeks before making any demands.

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Leach promised the board would seek an Attorney General’s opinion on a referendum regarding gaming if the Legislature allows Jackson County to hold a nonbinding referendum.

Gambling became an issue last year after the Mississippi Band of Choctaws proposed a $375 million casino in Jackson County. The casino would be built on 100 acres of tribal-owned land along Miss. 57 near Interstate 10.

Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin has said the tribe will respect voters’ wishes and not build the casino if gaming is voted down by Jackson County residents.

Jackson County last held a referendum on gaming in 1990. The vote then was for a binding referendum, and Jackson County voters rejected casinos.

An opinion issued March 7 from state Attorney General Jim Hood said the county may hold a nonbinding referendum since gaming would greatly impact the county’s services and local economy. That opinion was delivered after a request from State Rep. Daniel Guice, R-Ocean Springs.

County supervisors are concerned that they could be held personally liable for the cost of a referendum if it is later declared illegal by a court. During a March 12 meeting, Supervisor Manly Barton said the board would be more comfortable with legislative authorization for the referendum.