Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds December Election for Slidell Casino

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After the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday reversed a decision of an appeal court that could have prevented the vote from proceeding, the December 11 vote that will determine the fate for a proposed casino in Slidell-area will proceed.

Slidell Casino Vote Moves Forward

Last week, the Supreme Court halted all legal action in relation to the casino referendum. However, the Supreme Court ruled that any legal issues regarding the constitutionality of the vote would be settled after the election. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) will build a $325-million casino and hotel at Camellia Bay near Slidell if St. Tammany residents allow it.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes just two days after early voter registration began. It upholds Judge John Keller’s October 22nd Judicial Court ruling in St. Tammany Parish that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality and validity of the election, filed by Charles Branton from Covington and Slidell pastor John Raymond, wasn’t premature and that the plaintiffs failed to show irreparable damage if the election were held as scheduled.

Keller’s ruling was overturned by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, which ruled that there should be a trial on the merits before the election. But the St. Tammany Church government, which had added the question to the ballot, asked the Supreme Court not to overturn the First Circuit ruling. This it did on Monday.

St. Tammany’s voters are being asked whether they would allow Peninsula Pacific to construct a casino at a certain site in Slidell. The approval is necessary because parish voters turned down casino gambling and poker in 1996.

Plaintiffs Unhappy With Results

Branton, an attorney who filed the suit, stated he was “beyond disappointed” with the Supreme Court’s decision. He stated that he didn’t know the reason they were avoiding the issue. “I don’t know why they’re ducking the issue. We’re on hold until Dec. 11 and hopefully then the voters say ‘no,'” he added.

P2E spokesperson Jason Harbison stated that the company was excited when the Supreme Court decided to let St. Tammany residents vote.

Current legal disputes center on the constitutionality of Act 362, which the Louisiana Legislature adopted to allow St. Tammany residents to decide whether P2E should be allowed to operate and build a casino at the designated location near Slidell. Some critics argue that asking voters if they approve a casino at a specific spot before asking them if they approve casino gambling throughout the entire parish violates the state constitution.

Mike Lorino, chairman of St. Tammany Parish Council, stated in a statement that the Parish Council couldn’t adopt a stance on this referendum but encouraged residents and others to vote. He added, “Whether you are opposed or support the gaming proposition, the only way to ensure that the result of this election truly reflects the voices of our parish residents is to go to the polls.”

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