State auditor questions new Jones Co. Casino - - Jackson, MS

State auditor questions new Jones Co. Casino

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By Ashley Conroy - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians have decided to move forward with the new casino in Jones County.

Jones County resident and State Auditor Stacey Pickering is questioning whether another casino that doesn't generate state taxes should be in the works.

A 41-page document signed by former Governor Kirk Fordice and late tribal chief Chief Phillip Martin in 1992, outlines the compact between the Choctaw Nation and the State of Mississippi.

Part of the agreement was for all generated revenues from the Pearl River Resort casinos to go back into the tribe, and to by-pass paying any taxes back to the state.

Pickering is now revisiting this agreement and questions whether this is constitutional, because other casinos in the state pay state taxes.

"We're looking at all those legal ramifications of the existing law the existing compact and how their operating in the state of Mississippi right now," Pickering said.

In a statement about the casino, Pearl River Resort officials said:

"In keeping with the philosophy of self-determination and considering what is in the best interest of the Choctaw Tribe, the Tribal Council voted to move forward with plans to build a casino in the Bogue Homa community near Sandersville in Jones County."

They added: "We intend to be a good community partner with better roads and enhanced law enforcement and fire protection. Two feasibility studies have been conducted over the past two years, the project is a sound business decision."

Pickering has publicly spoken in opposition to the casino and says dozens of letters written to the state auditor's show the county's opposition to it.

Meantime, a recent poll by a Jones Co. paper, the Laurel Leader-Call shows a 57-percent approval rating of the new casino.

However, Pickering believes this small-town casino will be a deterrent and will not promote economic value.

"And that's lost revenue during a recession the state can least afford to give up," Pickering said.

As a long-time resident of Jones County, one of the components he says he most disagrees with, is that the Choctaw Tribal Council decided to move forward with this casino without any county-wide approval.

"It doesn't matter what the local will of the elected officials of the local community whether they want it or not, the tribe if they can be successful here, can open up casinos in other sites across the State of Mississippi."

A letter written to the paper on May 23, 2010 by tribal member Heather Thomas wrote: "Stacey Pickering has stated on the media the secrecy of the Choctaws regarding the possibility of a casino being built in Jones County as well as how the county provides police and fired protection for the Choctaws. The Choctaw Police department enforces tribal law and patrols the reservations."

Thomas adds: "The tribe is exempt from paying taxes to the state of Mississippi but in return, the state does not provide any type of funding to the tribe either."

Pearl River Resort spokesman, Warren Strain says the new 27-thousand satellite casino will be an extension of the Silver Star and Golden Moon Casinos in Neshoba County.

Strain says it will hold 500 to 700 slot machines and employ around 250 people.

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