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House leader Trey Lamar announced that he will not move forward with a bill to allow a casino in Jackson, Mississippi, breaking from the decades-old state law that restricts casinos to the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River. Despite this setback, Lamar encouraged potential investors in a casino near the state Capitol to not give up hope. The bill was filed on Monday but was not brought up for a vote on Tuesday after House Republicans determined there were not enough votes to pass it. Some Democrats also expressed opposition to the bill, with the House Democratic leader arguing that a Jackson casino would negatively impact existing casinos along the Mississippi River.

Since the first casinos opened in Mississippi in 1992, the state has licensed 12 casinos on the Gulf Coast and 14 along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians operates three additional casinos that are not regulated by the state. While Lamar’s bill proposed that a Jackson casino would have to be owned by someone with an existing casino license, the closest casinos to downtown Jackson are currently located in Vicksburg, approximately 48 miles away along the Mississippi River. Lawmakers from Vicksburg expressed concerns that a Jackson casino would have a detrimental impact on their city, as over 1,100 people are employed in the four local casinos and connected hotels.

Mississippi’s original law required casinos to be developed over water, but this was changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when some casino barges were blown onto land along the coast. The law was subsequently amended to allow casinos to be built a short distance on shore. However, the proposal for a casino in Jackson faced strong opposition from various lawmakers who believed it would harm existing casinos in other regions of the state. Despite Lamar’s decision not to move forward with the bill for this year, he offered words of encouragement to potential investors in a Jackson casino. The bill was ultimately withdrawn after House Republicans and some Democrats decided not to support it.

The debate over a casino in Jackson signifies a potential shift in the state’s stance on casino development, as it has historically been limited to specific regions in Mississippi. While the bill proposed by House leader Trey Lamar sought to expand casino operations to the state capital, it faced significant opposition from lawmakers concerned about the impact on existing casinos. However, Lamar’s encouragement to potential investors suggests that the idea of a Jackson casino may not be permanently off the table. The decision not to move forward with the bill this year highlights the complexities of the casino industry in Mississippi and the challenges of amending existing laws to accommodate new development.

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