St. Tammany Parish rejects Slidell casino proposal

Sixty-three percent of St. Tammany Parish voters say ‘no’ to casino

By: - December 11, 2021 11:08 pm

Louisiana’s gambling regulator has given the owner of Diamond Jacks riverboat casino in Bossier City 60 days to work out a deal to sell the site or have its state gaming license revoked.(File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

St. Tammany Parish on Saturday voted down a proposal to build a large casino and resort near the lakefront in the city of Slidell after several months of government lobbying and a multimillion-dollar pro-casino political campaign

The casino project was rejected by a 26-point margin, with 63 percent of voters opposing it. The measure was the only item on St. Tammany’s ballot. Voter participation in the election was over 30 percent, far higher than typically seen for a local referendum.

St. Tammany has never allowed casinos or truck stop video poker operations within its borders. The parish voted to prohibit gambling in 1996, when casinos were first starting to open in Louisiana.

But Peninsula Pacific Entertainment worked hard to reverse that ban this year. The gambling company has been trying to move a casino license in Northwest Louisiana to the southeastern portion of the state for years. 

Earlier this year, the gambling company shuttered DiamondJacks in Bossier City, stating that the Shreveport area casino market was oversaturated. It has argued that a new southeastern casino, along the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, would hook into an underserved market. 

The company in 2018 had tried to get the casino license moved to a site in Tangipahoa Parish, north of St. Tammany, but wasn’t able to get the Louisiana Legislature to move forward with the project.

This year, the Slidell proposal looked more promising. Both the St. Tammany Parish Council and Louisiana Legislature voted to put the casino measure to a local vote, clearing the way for Saturday’s referendum. Elected officials at the parish and state level also expressed support for the project.

But as the weeks passed, local city officials, including Slidell’s mayor and chief of police, came out against the project. Opponents worried the casino would create more crime, particularly concerns around human trafficking. Faith-based groups complained that the facility would cause a surge in problem gambling.

There was also some frustration that this gambling proposal was being handled differently than others in Louisiana. Historically, parishes have approved or expanded gambling on a parishwide level. In this case, St. Tammany was asked to vote for a gambling expansion that would have only applied to a specific site in Slidell. It would not have allowed casinos to open up in any other part of the community.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.