Time Ticking on Slidell Casino Bid, as Louisiana Legislative Session Ends June 10

Posted on: May 5, 2021, 08:52h. 

Last updated on: May 5, 2021, 11:26h.

If voters in Slidell and St. Tammany Parish are to face a local ballot referendum this November regarding a potential casino resort, state lawmakers in Baton Rouge must act quickly.

Slidell casino Louisiana resort St. Tammany Parish
The Blind Tiger restaurant in Slidell, La., is viewed. A Louisiana casino operator is seeking to build a gaming resort next to the eatery. (Image: The Blind Tiger Slidell)

The Louisiana Legislature’s 2021 session is set to end on June 10. Before then, lawmakers in the Senate and House must come to terms on a bill that would allow area voters in St. Tammany to decide whether they wish to end the parish’s longstanding ban on commercial gambling.

Senate Bill 213, a statute that would do just that, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19. But it’s since been subsequently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. 

As a result, Rep. Mary DuBuisson (R-Slidell) introduced House Bill 497 — nearly identical legislation to SB213. This week, HB497 passed the House Administration on Criminal Justice by an 8-2 vote.

DuBuisson’s bill now moves to the House floor for consideration. If it passes there, HB497 would head to the Senate, where it would need to pass two chamber committees and a Senate vote before heading to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) desk.

Casino Debate

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) wants to relocate its closed DiamondJacks Casino license to Slidell, a market it believes is more attractive. If a simple majority of voters back the potential ballot referendum in November, the company says it will build a more than $250 million casino resort at the Lakeshore Marina.

The legislation being considered in Baton Rouge wouldn’t authorize P2E’s Slidell casino. Instead, it would ask St. Tammany Parish voters if they want to allow the project to move forward.

I want to give them a chance to vote on this project,” explained DuBuisson. 

Religious organizations and the Louisiana Family Forum are campaigning against the ballot referendum. 

“Very few businesses pop up near casinos,” opined Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptists organization. Hall added that statistics from the Louisianan Department of Health show that the number of problem gamblers in the state has tripled since the legalization of gambling in 1993.

Rep. Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge), who supported HB497 in committee, said the legislation isn’t expanding gambling but deals with relocating one of the state’s 15 commercial casino licenses.

Power in Voter’s Hands

A recent poll found that a majority of residents in St. Tammany Parish want to decide on the casino matter. But politicking in the Louisiana capital might prevent them from having that opportunity. 

P2E says if state lawmakers and the governor give local voters the power to determine its casino fate. A majority of state officials lend their support to the project.

The Slidell casino would create 1,600 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent positions.

As an incentive, P2E has offered to pay $30 million to build a sports and entertainment complex on the 100-acre site at the Lakeshore Marina. The casino operator has additionally promised $5 million to help construct the Slidell ring levee.