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St. Tammany Parish residents will vote on whether to approve a controversial casino project Saturday. The casino measure is the only item on parish ballot during this weekend’s election.
The St. Tammany Parish Council and Louisiana Legislature voted earlier this year to let parish residents decide whether a new casino can open in Slidell. St. Tammany does not currently allow casinos within its borders.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment is pushing Saturday’s ballot measure and has plans to build the proposed Camellia Bay Casino and Resort in Slidell if it passes.
The referendum will only allow one casino to open in a specific location in Slidell. The rest of St. Tammany would still be closed to other casinos and truck stop video poker operations.
Casinos have been banned in St. Tammany since residents voted against them in 1996, and anti-casino sentiment is still alive and well in the area. One citizen group, Stand Up St. Tammany, was started solely to campaign against the proposed Slidell casino. An online anti-casino petition started by Chandler Goltz has 1,493 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
“The low end casino being proposed is bound to degrade everything we love about our neighborhoods, the surrounding establishments, and Slidell,” the petitioner’s written statement said. “This casino will change residential life in Slidell for the worse, bringing noise, crime, traffic, and competition to many small businesses in Slidell.”
Some local elected officials, including Slidell Chief of Police Randy Fandal and Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer, are also against the casino, saying the casino will raise crime and decrease property values.
“Study the issue closely. It’ll have a direct impact on our local businesses, our local economy and what we look like in the future. I’ve done my homework. I’ve looked at the facts, the figures, the budgets and I’m voting no,” Cromer said in November.
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Peninsula Pacific Entertainment has spent at least $3.6 million on a campaign to get the ballot initiative approved, Nola.com reported. The company also agreed to give the parish $35 million for a new sports complex and 5% of all gambling revenue if the casino is built.
In September, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board unanimously approved the company’s request to move a Bossier City riverboat casino license to the proposed site in St. Tammany Parish.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment owned the DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, which closed more than a year ago, after the start of the pandemic. The company felt that the new site, near the foot of the I-10 Twin Span Bridge, would bring in more revenue.
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But the specificity of the casino site has been a sore spot for area residents, as voters from all over the parish will be deciding on an issue that will disproportionately affect Slidell, where the casino will be located.
Casino critics have sued to try and stop the Slidell project from moving forward. They said state law requires the parish to vote on whether gambling should be allowed parish-wide before allowing riverboat casino gaming in the proposed spot. In all other parishes that allow casino gambling, the parish approved gambling for the entire community initially, not just a specific location.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has put off any court ruling on those lawsuits until after Saturday’s election. The court will consider whether the ballot measure passes the state’s legal standards only if it is approved this weekend.
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