St. Tammany Casino Vote to Proceed Despite Court’s Concessions to Plaintiffs

Posted on: October 12, 2021, 12:44h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2021, 02:18h.

Voters in St. Tammany Parish will face a local ballot referendum question during the December 11 election asking if they wish to authorize a single gaming resort.

St. Tammany Parish Louisiana casino Camellia Bay
A banner from the proposed Camellia Bay Resort is displayed during St. Tammany Parish’s recent dealing with Hurricane Ida. Parish voters will decide the fate of the $329 million development effort in December. (Image: Camellia Bay Resort)

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) wants to relocate its Louisiana gaming license from Bossier City to St. Tammany’s Slidell. P2E permanently closed DiamondJacks last year in favor of relocating the casino license to a more attractive operating environment.

P2E first needs parish approval by way of area voters to open a casino in St. Tammany. If a simple majority backs the election question, Peninsula says it would build a $329 million resort casino on the Lakeshore Marina called Camellia Bay.

There are plenty of opponents to allowing St. Tammany to invite a casino to town. But those hoping to prevent the casino development were recently dealt a legal setback in the 22nd Judicial District Court.

Judge Admits Legal Challenge Has Merit

St. Tammany Parish is located north of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. P2E’s targeted spot for the casino is near The Blind Tiger Restaurant, just east of the Interstate 10 Twin Span Bridge, which is also known as the Frank Davis “Naturally N’Awlins” Memorial Bridge.

Opponents to casino gambling in St. Tammany filed a lawsuit arguing that a local ballot referendum on gaming must ask residents if they wish to legalize gambling parish-wide — not in a single location. The current ballot question that will go before voters asks if they support allowing gambling at one specific location — the site where P2E has pitched Camellia Bay.

Shall gaming operations authorized by the Louisiana Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Control Act be authorized in St. Tammany Parish … along portions of Lake Pontchartrain that are part of the Lakeshore Marina, located south and east of Interstate 10, Exit 261?” the ballot question asks.

Judge John Keller ruled last week that the casino vote is still on for December 11. The election date was originally scheduled for November 13 but was pushed back for nearly a month because of Hurricane Ida.

Judge Keller said in his ruling that allowing the casino vote to take place will not cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs. He instead concluded that should a ballot vote come back in support of the P2E project, the plaintiffs could further argue their case that the referendum was unjust. If the vote rejects the casino plan, then no harm was done and the issue is resolved.

State Approval

Judge Keller’s decision is the latest in a string of victories for P2E. The casino company, which operates gaming properties in Iowa, Virginia, and New York, recently acquired the state’s blessing to relocate its Louisiana gaming license with local approval in St. Tammany.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) signed off on allowing P2E to relocate its gaming privileges from Bossier City to Slidell during a September meeting. But only on the condition of a parish vote embracing gaming.

Camellia Bay, P2E says, will bring 1,700 permanent jobs to Slidell. The casino firm also believes the gaming resort would generate between $7.5 million to $9 million annually in tax proceeds for the parish.

Camellia Bay released its first 30-commercial casino this week hyping the benefits of the proposed resort.