Choctaw chief plans to pursue Jackson Co. casino despite voter rejection

Published 5:24 pm Friday, November 9, 2007

Mississippi Band of Choctaws Chief Beasley Denson is pushing ahead with plans for a casino in Jackson County despite a loss in Tuesday’s election.

Denson issued a statement Wednesday that said the nonbinding referendum was not an official step in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ process for building a casino and the tribe will go ahead with an environmental impact study that will take two years.

“I am disappointed that a majority of the voters missed this opportunity to embrace a real partnership with our tribe,” he said.

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Despite losing the election along a 60-40 split, Denson said, “We built a coalition of business leaders and individuals in support of the tribal resort casino.”

Reaction to Beasley’s announcement drew incredulous responses from opponents who thought the issue finally would be settled after the Choctaws’ defeat Tuesday.

“What part of no don’t they understand?” Eleanor “Cissy” Jordan, a member of the Jackson Countians Against Choctaw Gaming coalition, said.

Jackson County Supervisor John McKay said he plans to follow the path laid out by voters. More than 18,000 opposed the plan, while 12,000 voted for it.

He said when Denson brought the plans for the casino, to be built north of Ocean Springs along Interstate 10, to the council, he told tribal leaders he would not support the idea unless residents did.

“I’m 100 percent against it,” McKay said.

Denson said incorrect information was spread about the tribe and the casino in the run-up to the election.

“For too many voters, the fear and mistrust generated by our opponents backed by the commercial casinos prompted them to vote for the status quo,” he said.