Matt Bush/Hattiesburg American

Gov. Can’t Stop Bok Homa Casino

ICTMN Staff
11/30/10

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are pushing forward with Bok Homa Casino near Sandersville, Mississippi, in the face of local opposition.

Despite the potential economy boom and creation of 300-plus jobs, Gov. Haley Barbour is fervently working to kill the project. Initially, he tried diplomatic negotiation with the Choctaw. When that failed, he turned to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to find a loophole in the law, but a 1992 tribal compact protects the Choctaw's rights to operate a casino on tribal land. In his latest attempt, he sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, pleading the EPA to halt construction on the “slot parlor,” as he dismissively refers to it, claiming it violates environmental standards.

But Choctaw officials are taking environmental concerns into consideration and developing ways to accommodate the expected 27,000 tourists monthly. The tribe is funding wider roads to the casino, said Jones County Board of Supervisors President Andy Dial, and they plan to tap their water supply from a newly drilled well.

The 27,000-square-foot gaming house will feature about 775 slot machines, two blackjack machines, an electronic roulette machine and several video poker kiosks, along with a "quick-serve" eatery, said Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians spokesman Warren Strain.

While plans are moving forward, casino officials will likely serve as a target for attacks by religious and community organizations long after opening.

"We will still be here and we plan on continuing to point out the inequities of a sovereign state building something that will cause detrimental things to flow over to Jones County and Sandersville and Laurel," said Cal Callen, spokesman for the Mississippi Coalition for Family and Community Values. "And we will continue to hold our officials' feet to the fire."

Unwavered by local resistance, Bok Homa Casino's opening ceremony with live music will kick off Dec. 20th at 11 a.m.

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