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Judge expected to rule on Jones County casino

SANDERSVILLE — Judge Jeffrey Webb is expected to rule later on a request by three Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian members to force an election for the new casino project in the Bogue Homa community of Jones County.

Webb, a tribal judge, heard both sides of the argument earlier this week.

An attorney for the three Tribal members told the court that the office of tribal chief Beasley Denson and the Election Committee were using technicalities to deny the referendum.

The Election Committee charged that it was following the laws of the Tribe, which address a referendum, and the petition was deficient and untimely filed.

About 500 to 700 slot machines and a snack shop are planned for the 27,000-square-foot casino on tribal land in Sandersville in Jones County. Work has started at the site.

The casino would employ about 250 people, said tribal spokesman Warren Strain, and be about an $18-million investment for the Choctaws.

The casino is on schedule to open by mid-December, Strain said.

The casino has been opposed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and some other state officials. Barbour has threatened to go to court to stop it.

Attorney General Jim Hood has said a gaming compact signed by Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice left the state no legal grounds to halt the plans. Hood has said state and federal courts have upheld the compact, and the state’s deadline for protesting the deal expired long ago.

The Choctaws operate two casinos in Neshoba County. The Choctaw casinos are not regulated by the state. Mississippi has 30 state-regulated casinos that operate along the waters of the Mississippi River and near the Gulf Coast.

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