On November 13, voters in St. Tammany Parish, South Louisiana, will have to decide if they want a casino development worth $335 million to be built in the Slidell area.
Voters Will See the New Measure on the Ballot in November
After a long public debate last Wednesday, the St. Tammany Parish Council in Louisiana voted 8-6 to put a referendum on the ballot this November 13 and ask voters if they want a casino in their neighborhood. A planned $335-million property has been proposed to be built in the Slidell area. In essence, the parish’s voters will have to decide if they want to undo their 1996 vote to ban casino gambling.
Pacific Peninsula Entertainment (P2E) wants to build the casino just outside of Slidell, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and the foot of Interstate 10 twin-span bridges that connect Slidell and New Orleans, in St. Tammany Parish. P2E wants to move its riverboat license from Bossier City to Diamond Jacks casino, but that moves requires a green light from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
The casino would pay 5% of its net gambling revenue to St. Tammany Parish, following the St. Tammany economic development agency plan.
Supporters and Opposers
During the council meeting on Wednesday, many people took the podium to speak out on the matter. Slidell homeowner Ronald Reeves, who lives Folsom, said that a casino would be a good way to bring tax revenue money for public projects. He said that he saw many Louisiana license plates at Mississippi casinos parking lots. He asked the council to let the residents decide.
Lee Longstreet, a resident who lives in Eden Isles close to the site, stated that putting the measure on the ballot is “a no-brainer.” However, he said that he would vote for the casino only “if the parish steps up code enforcement and gets a handle on short-term rentals in residential areas, which he called magnets for crime.”
A few Slidell area pastors and opponents of the casino project asked the council to postpone the vote. The rev. John Raymond even filed a suit on Wednesday to keep the proposal off the ballot. He said that the casino would lead to problem gambling and reduced property values. According to him, the area will become “a mecca of immorality, crime, and financial fallout.” Other pastors said that they would offer counsel to the victims of broken marriages and suicides – the future results of problem gambling in the area, in their opinion.
Postponement of the Measure on the Ballot Got Voted Down
The Slidell City Council asked the council to delay its vote to allow an independent economic impact study.
Business owners from Slidell also asked for a postponement. Chris Legrand, one of the owners of Southside Café in Slidell, put up a list with 96 business owners who requested a delay for the vote. They also want to have time to conduct a study and to have the time to get it. Wine Market owner, Doug Reker, expressed his concerns about his employees. He said that casinos give away free food on slow days. Reker also asked for a delay and a study.
Councilmember T.J. Smith offered a motion for a 60-day delay of the vote for 60 days, allowing the city to conduct a study, but the proposal got voted down.