A bill that would bring a casino to the Louisiana City of Slidell on Monday hit another roadblock as its main sponsor, Sen. Sharon Hewitt, had to delay a Senate Finance Committee hearing and vote for the second time.
Sen. Hewitt said that she needs the yes vote of fellow Senate lawmaker Mike Fesi who has been absent for over a week. It became known that he tested positive for Covid-19 last Thursday.
SB 213 narrowly survived a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago and now needs to pass the Finance Committee before heading to the full Senate floor.The piece was supposed to be heard in that second committee last week, but that did not happen due to Sen. Fesi’s absence.
The measure would clear the way for St. Tammany Parish (where Slidell is located) to vote in a local referendum in October whether a 1996 parish-wide anti-gambling vote should be reversed to allow the development of a proposed casino resort just outside Slidell along Lake Pontchartrain.
Sen. Hewitt’s bill would also add the site for the proposed casino off Interstate 10 and Exit 21 to a list of locations where establishments of this type can be developed.
Aside from the Finance Committee and the full Senate, SB 213 also needs approval by the Louisiana House and to be signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in order to become law. With the eight-week legislative session now being halfway through and the constant snags it has been hitting, its chance of going through all legislative hurdles appears a bit slim at this point.
Last week, the Slidell City Council voted down a resolution that would have allowed city residents to decide if they want a new casino within city limits. It should be noted that the resolution was very much symbolic as the matter is currently considered in the state Legislature and St. Tammany Parish voters would eventually have the final say on the proposed gambling establishment.
Attention Shifting to Identical Piece
With the Senate bill now stalled, attention has shifted to a twin measure in the House, HB 497, by Rep Mary DuBuisson. The House Committee on the Administration of Justice is set to hear the piece on Tuesday, May 4.
If one of the two bills eventually succeeds, it would allow Los Angeles-based developer Pacific Peninsula Entertainment, P2E, to relocate its existing Bossier City casino license to Slidell where the company wants to build a $250 million gaming and entertainment resort with a gambling facility, water slide, and lazy river, among other attractions.
P2E previously operated DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, but chose not to reopen the property last year after state legislators allowed non-essential businesses to resume operations as they began to relax Covid restrictions.
DiamondJacks was the worst performing casino in the saturated Shreveport/Bossier City markets but proponents of the proposed Slidell casino believe a facility of this kind would help Louisiana capture some of the local gamblers who frequent Mississippi Gulf Coast gambling venues.
If P2E’s relocation effort fails, the company will likely be asked by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to reopen DiamondJacks Casino and invest at least some of the money it plans to spend on a new property into its existing one. And if the company doesn’t want to do as asked, it would be required to return its license to the state.
Source: Senator Hewitt delays Slidell casino vote, then faces off with casino opponents, NOLA.com, May 3, 2021