(UPDATE) — In a story published on our website this morning, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says there is no legal basis for the state to block a casino proposed on Choctaw tribal land in Jones County.
—– (FROM TUESDAY, JULY 14) —-
Without getting into the political or moral issues of gambling, I understand why Gov. Haley Barbour and so many others don’t want the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to develop a proposed casino on tribal land in Jones County.
As most of you know by now, Gov. Haley Barbour and his “Gang of Six” Republican statewide elected officials have asked the Choctaws to withdraw plans for the casino, which would have 500 to 700 slot machines. It would be a $17-million investment, employing about 250 people.
The officials sent a letter to the Choctaws’ chief, Beasley Denson.
Those signing it with Barbour were Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, Auditor Stacey Pickering, Treasurer Tate Reeves and Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell.
At the heart of the legitimate argument is the proposed casino has nothing to do with the way Mississippi has historically defined casinos as a “destination place”.
The Coast, Tunica County, Neshoba County as well as other locations along the Mississippi River fit that description, which is to provide other amenities, “such as a golf course, water park, and restaurants needed to ensure the developments are consistent with state policies,” as was stated in the letter from Barbour and the Gang of Six.
It’s a fair argument.
The problem is there appears to be no legal leg to stand on, and that’s exactly what the state House Gaming Committee said.
Democratic Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto has articulated that, saying Mississippi has no authority over whether the Choctaws move forward with the casino.
Moak says courts have upheld a gaming compact that then-Gov. Kirk Fordice signed with the Choctaws in 1992.
So, while Barbour and the Gang of Six may have one good argument in their bag, they will have to appeal to the Choctaw leadership on a different level in order to prevent legal gambling from surfacing in Jones County.