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Attempt to bring a casino to Jackson...

Attempt to bring a casino to Jackson dies in the House after a flurry of opposition

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 26, 2024

Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File - Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

  • A sudden move to authorize the development of a casino on the Pearl River near Jackson was halted in a Mississippi House Committee after a lack of support.

Members who serve on the House Ways and Means Committee were informed Tuesday by Chairman Trey Lamar (R) that the recently dropped HB 1989, which would have allowed the construction of a single casino on the Pearl River near downtown Jackson, would not be taken up by the committee.

A flurry of activity stirred around the Capitol early Tuesday morning as State Representatives and those in the gaming industry pushed back on the measure.

The bill, which was authored by Lamar, would have authorized the Department of Finance and Administration to establish a loan program that would assist with the project’s development, and specifically instructed that the casino be near the downtown area of Jackson, within 6,000 feet of the Capitol.

The loan would be made through a Capitol City Project Loan Fund, which is also created in the bill, with the total amount of bonds that could be issued to the selected developer listed as $10 million. The developer would have to already operate a licensed casino and have $500 million of capital investment in the project.

Mississippi has 30 state-regulated casinos, all of which must be located either along the Mississippi River or on the Gulf Coast. In addition to those regulated casinos, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians own and operate three Class III Indian casinos and are planning to open a fourth in Jones County.

Mississippi authorized casino gambling in 1990 with the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. The overseeing Commission requires that manufacturers and distributors of gaming-related equipment be licensed, with employees found to be suitable by completing individual licensing applications. All licensure must go through and be approved by the Gaming Commission.

The first Mississippi-based casino was opened in August of 1992.

State Representative Oscar Denton (D), who represents House District 55 in the Vicksburg area, said allowing a casino to be in Jackson would be detrimental to the economic impact those businesses bring to his area. There are currently four casinos located in the Vicksburg area along the Mississippi River.

“Anything this close, I mean you’re talking about 50 miles, would affect us greatly, no question about that,” said Denton. “We all want Jackson to thrive, there’s no question about that, but we need to find another way.”

Rep. Denton said the way the bill is laid out, giving special preference to one developer and one location, would create a casino monopoly, something he said was unfair.

State Representative Kevin Ford (R), who also represents parts of the Vicksburg area, echoed Denton’s sentiments in opposition to the development. Ford said 7% of the workforce in his area is employed by the casino industry in Vicksburg. Any ripple effects could be problematic for his constituents.

Ford indicated there was overwhelming support among Republicans in the House not to let the legislation move forward at this time.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs told Magnolia Tribune he was glad to see the legislation die.

“I applaud the House Republicans for doing the right thing, that is killing a bill that would adversely affect the gaming market in the city of Vicksburg,” Mayor Flaggs said.

State Representative Robert Johnson, the House Democratic Minority Leader, said the move would have been devastating to the rest of the casinos in the state.

“It would be devastating to the rest of the casinos, especially those around the river and central Mississippi. The coast may survive, but there’s no way everyone else will survive,” said Johnson.

Johnson added that if they plan to change the laws around the implementation of a casino, more thought should be put into the planning of that effort.

Magnolia Tribune sought comment from Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Gaming Commission, but he was unavailable.

A letter was sent to Governor Tate Reeves and legislative leaders from the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association expressing their opposition to the measure.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah:
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