A Louisiana House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow a local referendum to be held in St. Tammany Parish on whether its residents want a casino to be developed just outside the City of Slidell.
The House Committee on Administration of Justice voted 8-2 to advance HB 497 by Rep. Mary DuBuisson. The measure needs approval from the full House, the Senate, and Governor John Bel Edwards.
As mentioned above, if the bill survives all legislative hurdles, it would allow St. Tammany Parish residents to decide on a proposed $250 million casino off Interstate 10 and the Oak Harbor exit just outside Slidell.
The proposal was tabled by Los Angeles-based developer Pacific Peninsula Entertainment, P2E. The company currently holds one of Louisiana’s 15 casino licenses. It previously operated the riverboat DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, but closed it permanently due to its continued underperformance in the saturated Shreveport/Bossier City market.
P2E has been trying to relocate its existing license to Slidell and build a $250 million casino and entertainment complex there. Aside from table games and slot machines, the property will also feature a water slide and lazy river, among other amenities.
P2E officials have told Louisiana lawmakers that their proposed casino, if eventually built, could support more than 1,900 local jobs and boost annual tax revenue by over $60 million, although the state Legislative Fiscal Office said it is difficult to estimate possible revenue at this point “due to a lack of specific plans and information.”
Twin Bill Stalls in Senate Committee
HB 497 passing its first committee vote came as a ray of hope for P2E’s effort to transfer its casino license to St. Tammany Parish after a twin measure on the matter has stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.
SB 213 by Sen. Sharon Hewit narrowly survived a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in April and was then referred to the Finance Committee. The measure was supposed to be considered last week, but Sen. Hewitt had to delay the scheduled hearing as one of her yes votes, Sen. Mike Fesi, was absent.
On Monday, SB 213’s main sponsor delayed the hearing for the second time as Sen. Fesi tested positive for Covid-19 last Thursday. It is unclear when the bill would be heard and voted on. But with the legislative session being halfway through, time doesn’t seem to be on Sen. Hewitt’s side.
If one of the two proposed bills becomes law, it would enable St. Tammany Parish voters to hold a local referendum on whether a 1996 parish-wide ban on gambling should be reversed and would put the proposed site for P2E’s casino to a list of locations that are permitted to host establishments of this kind.
The proposed gambling venue has garnered both staunch support and opposition. Proponents believe it could help Louisiana keep at least some of the gambling money it currently loses to Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos. Opponents fear that a project of this kind would cause an unwanted spike in crime, sex trafficking, and addiction in the area.
Source: Slidell casino proposal advances from legislative committee, WDSU New Orleans, May 5, 2021