St. Tammany Parish voters will finally get to decide whether to allow a casino in Slidell after the State Bond Commission gave its approval Thursday, thereby clearing the last hurdle for holding a parishwide referendum.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board a few minutes later officially changed the date of the vote to Dec. 11 to coincide with the governor’s order to postpone elections for a month to allow more time to recover from Hurricane Ida.
So, the referendum is finally on the ballot.
In what has been an often-contentious debate over many months, north shore voters will be asked whether it is okay by them to allow gambling in the parish. The last time parish voters were asked, they said no emphatically.
Gambling regulators authorized moving a casino license from Bossier City to Slidell.
On Nov. 5, 1996, 62% of the 70,507 participating voters were against the local option of allowing riverboat gaming.
Though still a bastion of Republican politics, the number of registered voters in the suburban New Orleans parish has grown about 60% to 185,510 over the past quarter century.
A number of public officials oppose the casino, including Slidell’s mayor, police chief and the Slidell City Council and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith. The St. Tammany Parish Council split, mostly on geographic lines, on putting the matter on the ballot, with all but one council member from eastern St. Tammany voting against it and all but one on the parish’s western side voting in favor.
If a majority of St. Tammany voters agree, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment LLC will move its Diamond Jacks riverboat license in Bossier City to Slidell.
The proposed $329 million casino resort would be called Camellia Bay and could open as soon as November 2023, if voters approve. The waterfront casino resort will have pools, a marina, local and celebrity chef restaurants and a 4-star hotel.
The facility would be located just off Interstate 10’s Exit 261, the first eastbound exit off the Twin Bridge, and would employ about a thousand people with an average pay of about $45,000 per year.
The facility would generate an estimated $33.3 million each year in gaming taxes. Local governments would receive about $9 million annually from taxes on gambling.
Opponents of the proposed Slidell casino also are fighting in court to stop the election from happening.
In St. Tammany Parish, a lawsuit that challenges the election on several issues, including alleged violations of the state Constitution will be heard before 22nd Judicial District Court Judge John Keller on Nov. 2 and 3.
A similar lawsuit was filed in Baton Rouge by a couple who lives near the proposed site, and it raises similar arguments. No trial date has been set for that case, but motions will be heard before 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant on Oct. 25.
Staff writer Sara Pagones contributed to this report