St. Tammany Casino Challengers Contend Process Legally Flawed

Posted on: July 15, 2021, 01:02h. 

Last updated on: July 15, 2021, 02:26h.

The effort to build a $325 million casino resort in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish is meeting opposition, and some of the project’s critics are taking their case to court. 

St. Tammany casino Slidell Louisiana
A Louisiana voter walks to the ballot box during the 2019 St. Tammany Parish Council election. In November, parish voters will decide if they support a casino resort near The Blind Tiger restaurant on the Lakeshore Marina. (Image: The New Orleans Advocate)

On November 13, parish voters are set to decide whether they wish to authorize the development of a casino resort along a designated portion of Lake Pontchartrain at the Lakeshore Marina.

If a simple majority endorses the ballot referendum question, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) will be cleared to relocate its casino privileges from Bossier City to Slidell in St. Tammany. P2E permanently closed its Bossier City Diamond Jacks Casino last year. The company is seeking a more attractive operating market. 

Gov. Louisiana John Bel Edwards (D) signed off on legislation in June allowing the casino ballot question to proceed. But now, the opposition hopes to get in its way. 

Referendum Challenges

Two lawsuits have been filed in the 22nd Judicial Court contesting the legality of the casino referendum. A St. Tammany couple has also filed a petition with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) that argues that the potential relocation of the gaming license is unlawful. 

The three arguments all claim that the Louisiana Constitution prevents a gaming referendum that asks residents if they wish to legalize commercial gambling at a single location. They assert that such a vote must legalize gaming parish-wide. 

The Constitution requires a parish-wide vote to flip the entire parish from a ‘NO riverboat gaming parish’ to a ‘YES riverboat gaming parish’ — before there may be any consideration of whether a riverboat gaming license may be transferred to any particular location within the Parish,” the LGCB filing asserts.

Dr. Jason Goltz and his wife Chandler, who reside near the Lakeshore Marina site where the casino is being targeted, brought the LGCB petition. They began their effort through a petition. 

Dr. Goltz owns Slidell Orthodontics. His wife, Chandler, runs the office. The couple says that if the state wishes to allow the Bossier City casino license to be moved, it should hold a competitive bidding process to receive the best deal. 

Quite simply, financially, it would be much more advantageous for the state to allow open bidding for the transfer of this license,” the filing declares.

Dan Lee, CEO of Full House Resorts, agrees that the state shouldn’t simply award P2E gaming privileges in Slidell. He says Full House would be interested in bidding on the license and constructing a $500 million casino resort in Lake Charles, La.

Full House owns and operates the Silver Slipper in nearby Bay St. Louis, Ms. The Slipper, just 20 miles east of Slidell, would be in direct competition with the proposed resort.  

Lawsuits Similar

St. Tammany Parish and its council are named as defendants in each of the two lawsuits.

The one lawsuit, brought by resident Rev. John Raymond and his lawyer Josh Clayton, argues that the parish erred in approving the referendum measure. His litigation states that the west side of the parish is incentivized to approve the measure without enduring the same potential problems associated with a casino that the eastern portion will experience. 

The other lawsuit sought to prevent the St. Tammany Council from voting on the referendum during its special June 30 meeting. The suit, however, failed. The council voted 8-6 in favor of moving the casino question before voters for the November election.