Bill to Place Casino in Jackson, Miss., Stalls in House Committee

Land Based Casinos Law & Politics Legislation
Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia


Last Updated on 27th March 2024, 06:55 AM

Bill to Place Casino in Jackson, Miss., Stalls in House Committee

Mississippi House Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar (left) confers with committee member Rep. Larry Byrd (right) on Tuesday, a day when he had to explain to many why the Jackson casino bill was being tabled. (Image: Rogelio Solis / Associated Press / Alamy)

A Mississippi legislator filed a bill in the state house on Monday that would allow the state to provide loans to support a casino in the capital city of Jackson, catching many stakeholders in the state by surprise.

House Bill 1989, filed by House Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia), would create a special fund for one specific project in the Jackson Capitol Complex Improvement District – within about a mile of the state capitol building.

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Bill Catches State Gaming Officials Off Guard

According to a report by Mississippi Today, almost nobody knew anything about the bill until it was filed. Both the director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and the head of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association told the station that they knew nothing of the proposal.

“All I can tell you is this is pretty much a surprise. The Gaming Commission has not been consulted,” Gaming Commission director Jay McDaniel told reporters. “The question for me is, who makes the decision who gets that license?”

The bill would provide support from the state for a $500 million casino project on the Pearl River. This would require a sudden change to state law, which currently limits casinos to operating only along the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River.

It would also end a longstanding policy of awarding casino licenses based on a “level playing field” system, rather than based on support for specific projects by specific developers from legislators.

Lack of Support Shelves Bill for Now 

Those issues led to severe and immediate backlash from many corners of the gaming industry in Mississippi.

“This legislation will authorize an expansion of gaming that is unprecedented in the 34 years since legal gaming was authorized,” read a letter from the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association, which represents 26 casinos in the state. “From the inception, legal gaming has been strictly limited to certain statutorily described areas of the state.”

Donn Mitchell, a principal official at the Foundation Gaming Group, which owns casinos in Vicksburg and Tunica, argued that a new carveout in a larger market like Jackson would unfairly damage other casino owners in the state.

“We are not opposed to competition, and have nothing against Jackson, but changing the rules midstream after we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars – with no state loans – to restore a troubled casino is not fair,” Mitchell said, via Mississippi Today. “We know Jackson needs development, but so does Vicksburg.”

By Tuesday afternoon, it seems that Lamar found that there were not enough votes for the bill to pass. The House GOP caucus met for a weekly meeting at noon on Tuesday, and enough members said they were opposed to the measure that it was clear the bill could not succeed in the full chamber. 

At a committee meeting later on Tuesday, Lamar announced that he wouldn’t be moving forward with the bill. However, he still provided hope to developers that a project in Jackson could be possible in the future.

“As encouragement to the people who had requested this bill and been willing to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and offered to invest literally somewhere pushing $1 billion in the city of Jackson, don’t give up hope,” Lamar said. 

Meet The Author

16 Years
Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for,, and, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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