Opponents of a proposed $325 million casino just outside the Louisiana City of Slidell have renewed their legal effort to block a St. Tammany Parish referendum on whether the parish should host the gambling venue.
In June, Covington-based lawyer Charles Branton and Slidell pastor John Raymond filed a pair of lawsuits seeking to prevent the November 13 casino referendum from taking place.
The lawsuits cited a number of issues related to the ballot from breaches of Louisiana’s Constitution to violation of parish zoning rules that ban riverboat casinos within a mile of any school, public playground, church, or library.
That earlier legal effort failed, but the lawsuits have been consolidated since June and an amended petition was filed this past Friday in the District Court in St. Tammany Parish. The new suit outlines several arguments why the November referendum should not take place.
Los Angeles-based developer Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) wants to build a $325 million hotel and casino complex on about 50 acres of land at Interstate 10’s Exit 261 along Lake Pontchartrain just outside Slidell.
The company previously operated the now shuttered DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City and looks to use its vacant casino license for the proposed Slidell project. However, before being able to do that, St. Tammany residents need to vote in a local referendum whether a 1996 parishwide ban on casino expansion should be reversed.
Casino Measure Violates Constitution
The recently filed lawsuit alleges that the Slidell casino measure violates the state’s Constitution because it would ask voters if they want a casino in a specific location. Opponents of the project argue that under the 1996 law, parish residents should first have been asked whether they wanted gambling to be allowed anywhere in St. Tammany.
The lawsuit further notes that the Louisiana Legislature has effectively usurped the local government’s authority over the use of parish land as it designates the location and it does not have the right to do so.
Plaintiffs also cite a 2017 amendment to the parish code that includes a Riverboat Gaming District designation, under which a riverboat casino must not be located within one mile from playgrounds, churches, schools, and libraries. The St. Tammany Fishing Pier is within a mile of the proposed casino site, the lawsuit notes further.
According to the recent petition, P2E’s Bossier City license is not transferable and state gaming regulators should launch a public process for potential bidders interested in obtaining it.
The lawsuit is set to be heard on October 7-8 in the 22nd Judicial District Judge John Keller’s court.
A P2E spokesperson said that their casino project has seen strong support across the parish and “that’s why opponents are using unfounded lawsuits and deception to stop their neighbors from voting on this economic development opportunity.”
The company’s proposed gaming complex will feature a casino with slot machines and table games, a 250-room hotel, lakeside upgrades, an outdoor pool, an event venue, and multiple food and beverage outlets.
Source: Will a lawsuit block the vote on the Slidell area casino? A hearing is set for October, NOLA.com, August 3, 2021