Media Now In The Middle Of Choctaw Casino Issue

The Choctaws, and the people opposed to a Jackson County casino have started their media blitz. And as you might expect, their messages are completely different.

Opponents hit the airwaves first. Their ad says that if Jackson County approves the Choctaw's casino concept, the tribe will win and you'll lose.

The Choctaw television commercial came out Monday. It uses hurricane damage to say a vote against their Highway 57 casino resort is a vote for the status quo.

The ad blitz goes beyond television screens.  On a rainy Monday, pro casinos signs lined one side of Highway 57. An anti-casino billboard towered over Highway 90. The question is whether Jackson County is for or against a Choctaw casino just south of I-10 and Highway 57.

Outgoing supervisor Tim Broussard's vote is yes. "I certainly believe this is an economic boon for Jackson County if it's allowed to go through," he said during the "Sunday Night" program on WLOX.

The Choctaw's plan is to turn 100 acres it owns on the west side of 57 into an elaborate $375 million casino resort.

Tim Taranto is with Gulf Coast Businesses For Fair Play, an organization fighting the Choctaw project. "The idea that an enterprise like the Mississippi Band of Choctaws can come into Jackson County and dictate to us how they're going to conduct their affairs and not pay us any taxes, and not abide by our laws," he said, "that's concerning."

Taranto's lobbying group gets funding from Harrison and Hancock County casinos. Broussard emphasized that point during the live half hour broadcast. "This is a situation where a group in Harrison and Hancock Counties are desperately trying to poison the minds of the people in Jackson County that this is a bad deal," Broussard said. "Who is it a bad deal for? It's a bad deal for them."

A caller on "Sunday Night" wasn't impressed with the Choctaw's concept. "I'm basically against it because I don't believe in giving them a leg up in the gambling industry." the caller told the panel.

That led to this response from Supervisor Broussard. "I just don't understand this concept that it's our responsibility to protect the state and protect Harrison and Hancock County from loss of revenue," he said.

The Choctaws have said 3,000 jobs would be created by a casino resort on their Highway 57 property. And they've said four percent of their net revenues would go to Jackson County in lieu of the taxes they don't have to pay. However, Taranto fears the federal government would call the potential seven million dollar a year fee an illegal tax. "The impressions I've gotten are if it looks like a tax and smells like a tax, the federal government won't allow them to pay that," Taranto told the audience. "And that would certainly be a way for them to liberate themselves from paying that fee."

Jackson County residents will share their views on whether a casino near I-10 is a good thing when they vote on November sixth. The Choctaw referendum is non-binding. The ultimate decision about whether the tribe can build a Highway 57 casino resort rests with the governor and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.