Supervisors: No Vote Over Choctaw Casino For Jackson County

"At some point and time, somebody has to make a decision," Supervisor John McKay says.

Everybody figured that decision would be influenced by a non-binding referendum. They thought the people of Jackson County would say yes or no to a Choctaw casino on Highway 57. And if they said no, the Choctaws would be true to their word, and drop their casino plans. The problem is the county attorney says state law does not allow for the county to hold a public vote on how Indian land is developed.

"Where this fails is jurisdiction. It doesn't matter which way you slice it or dice it, at the end of the day, the board of supervisors does not have the authority to decide whether or not the Choctaw casino can come into Jackson County," board attorney Paula Stennett-Yancey says.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaws is trying to get 100 acres on Highway 57 declared reservation land, to allow for a casino resort in Jackson County, similar to the tribe's developments in Philadelphia. Casino opponents say Jackson County voters have already said no to gambling, but that was more than 15 years ago.

"I represent a constituency that would like to have an opportunity to vote," Supervisor Frank Leach says.

Supervisor John McKay says understands the county attorney's assessment, but he says an Attorney General's opinion would clear up this cloudy issue.

"We need to get the people at the state level to once and for all tell us yes we can, no we can't and put this thing to bed. If we can, let's put a vote on it. If we can't, then that's the end of it," McKay says.

However, McKay's request was denied by his fellow board members. Board president Tim Broussard says it really doesn't matter what the board or the people think about an Indian casino. The federal government and the Choctaws will have the final say.

"If the board of supervisors took a stance for or against, it has no bearing on whether or not they can put in a casino?" Broussard says.

So supervisors are looking for other ways to determine where Jackson County people stand on the Choctaw casino question. The board did request attorney Paula Stennett-Yancey to continue looking into a legal way for the board to have a non-binding referendum on the Choctaw project. She's expected to make her recommendation to the board next week.

By Keli Rabon