Hundreds Show Up For Hearing On Proposed Indian Casino - - The News for South Mississippi

Hundreds Show Up For Hearing On Proposed Indian Casino

A proposed casino-resort in Jackson County brought hundreds to the Ocean Springs Civic Center Wednesday night. They wanted to hear more about the band of Choctaw Indian's plan.

The tribe has plans to build a $375 million casino and hotel on 100 acres they already own on Highway 57.

In the past, the people of Jackson County voted down gaming. Still, the Choctaw are hoping to sway public opinion with open discussion and forums.

"Everybody I've talked to is against it," Ocean Springs resident Bill Bolin said.

Bolin was one of hundreds who gathered Wednesday night to hear about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians's plan for a proposed casino on Highway 57 and I-10 in Jackson County. He wonders why it's even an issue.

"I voted against it," Bolin said. 

Baptist minister Dr. Rex Yancy says he's against a casino in his county for moral and economic reasons.

The Pascagoula resident said, "I believe Jackson County has a history of being a county that brings industry in that creates wealth, instead of a casino where it just exchanges dollars."

But Chassidy Wilson, who represents the tribe, says it's so much more than that.

"We will have an annual payroll of about $70 million, create about 3,000 jobs. We think we can help recover what happened during Hurricane Katrina," Wilson said. 

Most of the people at the meeting wore stickers showing their opposition to the $375 million casino-resort idea. But not David Moore. He scratched the "no" off the sticker he was given at the door.

"I'm strictly for the Indians," Moore said. "I think it's about time they get a little break. After all, they did own all this at one time and I welcome then back home."

But many residents at the meeting said they won't roll out the welcome mat for a casino development. They say the Indian Casino's tax exemption won't help the county's economy.

"Too much expense on the county, if they come. They're not going to pay taxes or anything, so I'm opposed," Bolin said.

But, the Choctaws say they intend to pay taxes anyway.

"It's going to help us a great deal here," Moore said. 

Convincing more people in Jackson County to support their casino proposal will be the challenge now. It's becoming an emotional issue.

"I hope that they get the message, pack their bags and go home," Bolin said.

"I wish the very best for the Indians and I hope they do get their casino," Moore said.

Wednesday's hearing was a federal requirement of the Choctaw's application to have 100 acres declared legal for gaming. This is the first step in what could be an eight year long process.

by Rebecca Powers

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