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Mississippi Lawmaker Proposes Casino in Jackson

Explore the contentious debate surrounding Mississippi lawmaker Trey Lamar's proposal to bring a casino to the state capital of Jackson. Despite ambitious job creation and revenue projections, Lamar faces staunch opposition from existing gaming interests, highlighting the complex dynamics of the state's gaming landscape.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Apr 1, 2024

Mississippi Lawmaker Proposes Casino in Jackson

Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee Chair Trey Lamar (R-Lafayette) ignited a contentious debate on Monday by introducing a bill aimed at bringing a casino to Jackson, the state capital. However, Lamar's proposal faced significant challenges from the outset, as Mississippi's gaming industry has long been concentrated on the Coast and Mississippi River.

Lamar's vision for a casino in Jackson involved allowing stakeholders from the state's existing commercial casinos to bid on a resort opportunity in the capital city. With 12 casinos on the Gulf and 14 along the Mississippi River, Mississippi currently boasts a robust gaming landscape, supplemented by three Native American gaming facilities.

 

The Key Movements:

  • Controversial Proposal: Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee Chair Trey Lamar introduces a bill to establish a casino in Jackson, the state capital, sparking a heated debate among lawmakers and gaming stakeholders.
  • Fierce Opposition: Lamar's casino initiative faces significant pushback from existing gaming interests, particularly in Vicksburg, who express concerns about the potential impact on their local markets and communities.
  • Future Prospects: Despite withdrawing the bill due to insufficient support, Lamar pledges to continue his efforts to bring a casino to Jackson in the future, setting the stage for ongoing discussions and potential legislative battles in the coming years.

 

Despite Lamar's enthusiasm, he encountered swift resistance to the idea of establishing a casino in the heart of the state. Realizing that he lacked the necessary support in the 122-member chamber, Lamar ultimately withdrew the bill. However, he has vowed to resume his efforts next year.

Jackson, with a population of approximately 144,000 residents, represents Mississippi's largest city. Named after General Andrew Jackson, the city has experienced a population decline in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lamar's casino bill projected the creation of over 1,000 jobs and anticipated generating new local tax revenue for city improvement projects. Nevertheless, opposition quickly emerged from Vicksburg, located approximately 50 miles west of the capital, which hosts the nearest gaming destinations.

House Leader Robert Johnson (D-Natchez) expressed concern over the potential impact of a Jackson casino on existing gaming markets, stating, “The Coast may survive it, but there's no way anybody else could.” Similarly, Rep. Oscar Denton (D-Vicksburg) described the proposal as potentially “devastating” for his city.

Meanwhile, a separate legislative issue concerning tidelands leases has garnered attention. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi amended its riverboat laws to permit land-based gaming along the Gulf, subject to certain regulations. A recent Mississippi Supreme Court ruling granted counties along the Gulf the authority to sell lands adjoining tidelands owned by the state, without obtaining a tidelands lease first.

 

“Jackson is Mississippi’s most populated city… It would have been devastating.”

 

The Concluding Thoughts

State lawmakers are currently deliberating legislation that would mandate state tidelands leases for casino sites. This decision could impact the progression of various casino projects, including businessman Ray Wooldridge's endeavor and the proposed $300 million Tullis Garden casino scheme in East Biloxi.

Observers speculate that existing gaming interests are lobbying for the state tidelands bill to afford Jackson more control over casino development and to mitigate further competition from emerging gaming destinations. Last year, gross gaming revenue along the Gulf Coast experienced a nearly 1% decline, highlighting the evolving dynamics within Mississippi's gaming landscape.

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