Fight Over Choctaw’s Red Water Casino Project will be Decided by Voters

Posted on: September 13, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: September 13, 2017, 02:11h.

The fate of Choctaw Nation’s fourth casino in Mississippi will be decided by its more than 10,000 members and not tribal leadership. After a brief legal battle those opposed to the project were able to get a referendum for November 17.

Choctaw Red Water Casino
Choctaw Chief Phyliss Anderson said a proposed Mississippi casino would be good for the tribe, but opposition members have forced a November 17 voter referendum. (Image: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians)

Chief Phyliss Anderson decided not to appeal a decision made last month by a judge in Choctaw Tribal Court that a group had the required number of signatures to force a vote.

“I stand firm in my commitment to this project and the many successes I believe the Red Water Casino can achieve,” she said in a statement. “And I have faith in our Choctaw people to evaluate the project on its merits and make an informed decision. I strongly believe we must work together to create more opportunities now and a brighter future for our children.”

Projected Resort Not Popular

Residents of the sovereign nation wanted a say in the planned development.  Some thought a fourth casino was not necessary, especially with three others in close proximity. They also were concerned about the estimated $25 million cost, especially after a recent $70 million spent in renovations to one of its other casinos.

They began a petition drive shortly after the tribal council approved it in a 9-7 vote in January. They needed 1,612 signatures to get it on a ballot and presented 1,730 in early May.

But the Tribal Election Commission rejected more than 130 of them, ruling them invalid later that month. The group appealed the decision saying the process was flawed.

On August 16, Tribal Judge Jeff Webb agreed and ruled that 1,624 valid signatures had been raised, giving them enough.

Anderson, who has tried to get the project approved two prior times and failed, opted to pull out of the legal battle and let the voters choose whether it should be built.

She also is facing a recall effort because of the casino and charges of employment discrimination.

Good for Tribe

Red Water Casino was announced last year by Anderson and said it would be an asset to the community. The 35,800 square foot gaming venue would offer 500 slots and 10 live table games, along with several dining options. It was expected to create more than 200 new jobs.

“We must invest in our future, opportunities do not stand still and wait,” she said in a January statement. “I am very thankful to the members of our council that support this project and believe in moving our Tribe forward.”

The tribe, which is the only federally recognized tribe in the State of Mississippi, owns Silver Star Hotel and Casino and the Golden Moon Casino at Neshoba County’s Pearl River Resort about an hour north of Meridan, as well as the Bok Homa Casino in Sandersville, which is about 80 miles south of the other two establishments. Red Water would be in Carthage, 20 miles west of Pearl River.