Before St. Tammany Parish voters can weigh up whether they think a casino in the Slidell area is a good idea, lawmakers must approve a bill putting the question on a ballot – a hurdle the Tangipahoa community puts three Years ago could not overcome.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which failed to move its riverboat license from Bossier City to Tangipahoa in 2018, announced plans Monday to move it to St. Tammany and a land-based casino and resort at the foot of Interstate 10 valued at 250 million US dollars to build.
A bill for a referendum in St. Tammany is expected to be tabled for the legislature beginning April 12, although it is not yet clear which legislature will sponsor it.
Senator Sharon Hewitt, who represents Eastern St. Tammany, said the delegation “stands ready to do this if the locals so wish. That depends on public feedback over the next few weeks.”
A $ 250M casino resort in Slidell is on the table, but will it happen? See plans, outlook
She said there is ample time for public hearings and feedback on what people want and to address concerns.
Rep. Mary DuBuisson, who represents the Slidell area, said there had been talk of sponsoring all of the St Tammany delegation’s legislation, when others said they hadn’t heard. Since this is a tax meeting, each legislator is limited to five non-tax invoices.
DuBuisson and several other lawmakers who have seen the public more open to the idea.
In a poll she sent out to voters, DuBuisson asked her to check off a list of ways to meet local revenue needs, including bond sales, property taxes, sales taxes, a casino, and video poker. The answers favored gambling, she said.
Rep. Larry Frieman said he asked if his constituents would prefer to allow a vote on whether or not they have a casino, and the answer was overwhelmingly for allowing them to vote.
Some of the St. Tammany Parish residents who opposed riverboat and video poker gambling in a 1996 referendum have likely changed their minds, said Frieman, who represents much of northern St. Tammany. But he attributes the bigger difference to an influx of people from other communities into Katrina who make gambling possible. “The composition of the community has changed,” he said.
Others, like Senator Patrick McMath, pointed to the sports betting vote that passed 67% in the community. “That was pretty telling – that surprised me. I think opinions have changed in the last 20 to 30 years.”
Even so, lawmakers are calling on the St. Tammany Town Council to adopt a resolution, labeled non-binding by Council Chairman Mike Lorino, which will assist the delegation in getting a bill for a referendum.
The local council will vote on the resolution at a special session on Monday at 6 p.m.
But Jake Airey, the council member representing the area where the casino is to be built, said Tuesday that he thought the resolution was premature. He said he didn’t have enough time to meet with people who live near the place.
Airey, who found out about the proposal just before Christmas, said he had questions about whether a casino that relies heavily on St. Tammany players will be able to generate enough revenue to deliver on its promises .
“As broad as the resolution is, I just assume people have a lot of questions and I don’t know if I can answer them by Monday,” Airey said.
The project is expected to create nearly 1,700 jobs during construction and 1,900 during operations. The company predicts it will generate approximately $ 10 million in tax revenue for local government annually.
They are also offering $ 30 million to pay for a sports and family entertainment complex and $ 5 million for the Slidell Ring Dam.
Referendum legislation will spell out an electoral language specific to the Slidell project, officials said.
“In that case, the referendum would only address the proposed entertainment and gaming resort,” Parish President Mike Cooper said in an email on Tuesday. “I would oppose any effort to broaden or expand the reach of this referendum.”
Company representatives met with some members of the local council on Tuesday and will meet with members of Slidell’s councilor on Wednesday.
Lorino said the local council will hold at least two public meetings, although they are not yet scheduled. The council is likely to vote for a November election in June or July.
“This will be known to the public before the vote,” said Hewitt. “There will be nine months of marketing and public input as well as fine-tuning of the plan.”