Members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians decided by a margin of more than 2-1 to reject a proposed fourth casino known as Red Water. The vote occurred last Thursday, but was made official on Tuesday after absentee ballots were counted.

Red water casino

A vote on a proposed fourth casino called Red Water for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians was rejected by more than 2-1 margin. (Image: Artist rendering)

Of the 11,000 eligible voters only 2,230 turned out with the casino being rebuffed 1,506 to 710. Fourteen ballots were not allowed. The number of people who came to exercise their right was much less than the 3,500 that was expected. The Tribal Election Commission mandates that 2,197 votes must be cast for it to be valid.

Before it was official Chief Phyliss J. Anderson said that she would respect the decision.

“My commitment to our Tribe and people is to always do what I feel is in the best inerest of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians,” she said. “We will continue to explore other opportunities to build on our existing success for our Tribe.”

Contentious Battle

The referendum pitted two factions of the Native American Tribe against one another with Anderson a main proponent of the new casino in her home area of Red Water near Carthage, Mississippi. She argued that the new establishment would bring in approximately $50 million in annual revenue, plus provide more than 250 jobs.

It was not surprising that her district was the only one that voted in favor of the project, 141-70.

The chief, who staved off a recall effort earlier in the year, has been in favor of a fourth venue and has tried for several years to get one built.

This year she planned to have it erected after getting a 9-7 vote from the Tribal Council, but one member said the voters should have a say whether the 35,800 square foot gaming facility should be constructed.

Anderson disagreed and said that tribal leadership had the authority to make such a decision and resisted any efforts to challenge the result. It was the third time she had attempted to get the development green-lighted.

Opponents Mobilized

Barry McMillan, who serves on the tribal council, disagreed with the chief and said the voters should have the right to decide. He and others began a petition to get a referendum on the ballot. When they presented 1,730 in early May the Tribal Election Committee rejected 130 of the signatures leaving them 24 short of what was needed for the special vote.

The group appealed the decision saying the process was flawed. They took the case to the court and on Aug. 16 Tribal Judge Jeff Webb ruled in their favor and said they had enough valid signatures for the referendum.

McMillan was optimistic about the vote going in his favor because of the petition drive and he was proven correct. He said a majority of the sovereign nation was worried about the estimated $25 million price tag, especially since the group had spent $70 million to renovate and reopen Golden Moon Casino two years ago.