Choctaw Casino A Focus of Fair Speeches

By: Jessica Dealy Email
By: Jessica Dealy Email

The topic of the day at the Neshoba County Fair seemed to be the plan by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to build a third casino, this time in Jones County.

Both Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant blasted the idea. The governor was particularly pointed in his criticism.

"It is in an area where there are no roads. You've got an old 2-lane dilapidated county road, no water to speak of, no sewer at all, and that violates federal policy, as well as state policy," said Barbour.

"This is not a big casino with a hotel. This is not a development on the water somewhere, where our laws allow you to be," said Bryant. "This is outside the system completely."

Barbour says, as far as attractions go, the building falls short of what state policy says it should have in order to be an official gaming hall.

"To have a gaming hall, to have a casino, you have to have amenities like hotels, parking garages, theaters, golf courses," said Barbour. "If you are going to build a casino in Mississippi, it should meet that standard."

Furthering his concerns, Barbour stated the tribal vote was nearly tied and that the entire Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians should have been allowed to put the matter to vote.

"When the tribal council is so closely divided that the vote was 8 to 7, then I believe Philip Martin was right for the first two casinos and would be right for this one and allow the whole tribe to vote on whether to go forward with this or not," Barbour said.

Perhaps the governor and Choctaw chief, Miko Beasley Denson, could come to a compromise on the issue. However the foundation for communication between the two doesn't seem to be very strong.

"We don't have nearly as good a relationship as I had with Chief Martin," said Barbour. "Of course, Chief Martin was chief for a long time and most of the time I was governor. We worked together on a lot of things. I don't know the new chief as well."

"The governor calls it a slot parlor, and I think it would be a beginning on what could add other buildings, slot machines in them and we just do not need to go there," said Bryant. "It's not something that we need in Mississippi."

"This is all about politics," said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. "The project will provide over 200 jobs and $4 million in annual payroll to Jones County. What we are trying to do is fund government services for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians."

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