Posted on: December 3, 2021, 11:40h.
Last updated on: December 3, 2021, 12:01h.
Voters in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish are deciding whether to authorize a single commercial casino development in Slidell on the Lakeshore Marina. Local government officials say opponents to the gaming project have included dishonest information in their recent campaigns.
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith (left) and Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal revealed during a press event in June that they oppose allowing a casino to be built on the Lakeshore Marina. Early voting on the ballot referendum is underway, but most of the votes are expected to be cast during the December 11 election day. (Image: WWL AM870)
St. Tammany voters on December 11 will face only one ballot question — the gaming matter. Early voting, however, began last week. Residents are being asked if they support allowing gaming operations to commence in a specified zone near The Bling Tiger restaurant in Slidell.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) has proposed a $325 million casino resort for Slidell called Camellia Bay. The the casino promises it would create $7.5 million to $9 million in annual local tax revenue and 1,000 permanent jobs. P2E has also pledged to build a $35 million community athletics complex near the casino and donate $5 million to help construct a new ring levee for the city.
Antagonists to allowing casino operator Peninsula Pacific to relocate its gaming license from the defunct DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City to Slidell are urging voters to reject the proposition. But parish officials say some of their campaign messaging is false.
Two Casinos Argued
The St. Tammany government says recent ads claiming that a second casino could come to the county should the referendum pass are outright wrong.
Bogus. Baloney,” declared Parish Councilmember Michael Lorino. “I’m not endorsing or not endorsing the casino. I’m here to set the record straight.”
Parish officials say the referendum only authorizes a single casino at a single determined site. An ongoing legal contention is challenging that process by arguing that parish gaming referendums must authorize gaming parish-wide, as opposed to in a single spot. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled this week that the legal argument is warranted, and the case will be determined later should the P2E referendum pass with majority support.
“Stand Up St. Tammany,” one of the leading opposition groups to the casino effort, says if the referendum passes, residents should expect a second casino to be built in Mandeville along the Tchefuncte River.
Parish officials, however, maintain that is not the case. They explain that a second casino would need to go through the same referendum process as P2E, with voters ultimately in control. The parish government and Louisiana Gaming Control Board would additionally have to approve such a development.
Parish Not Financing Camellia Bay
Another argument floated by the casino opposition is that St. Tammany will be on the hook to help finance the construction of Camellia Bay and the sports complex. That’s because P2E would be pledging to pay back the loans over many years.
Lorino said bonds have “never been discussed,” and the financing claim is yet another “misrepresentation of the facts to try and confuse the people.”
If approved, the Camellia Bay blueprint suggests a 79,000-square-foot casino with 1,200 slot machines, an undetermined number of table games, a poker room, and a sportsbook. The resort would come with a 100-room hotel, spa, fitness center, and seven restaurants. A pool and 50-slip marina complex would complement the destination.