Voters in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, voted down on Saturday a proposal to build a $325 million casino and resort near the lakefront in the city of Slidell. The decision brings to an end a several months-long pro-casino millionaire campaign and government lobbying efforts.
The casino project, proposed by developer Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E), was rejected with 63% of voters opposing it, reports Louisiana Illuminator. The measure was the only item on St. Tammany’s ballot, and voter participation in the election was over 30%, higher than the average for local referendums.
Throughout the year, P2E worked hard and poured millions in an effort to sway residents. St. Tammany has never allowed casinos, and in 1996 the parish had already voted to prohibit gambling. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment believed it could overturn this ban as part of its plans to move a casino license in Northwest Louisiana to the southeastern part of the state.
Earlier this year, the company closed its DiamondJacks venue in Bossier City, claiming the market there was oversaturated. In 2018, P2E tried to get the license moved to Tangipahoa Parish, but wasn’t able to get the Louisiana Legislature to move forward with the project. St. Tammany Parish was then selected as the next location.
Both the St. Tammany Parish Council and Louisiana Legislature voted to put the casino measure to a local vote. While elected officials at the parish and state level initially expressed support for the proposal, local city officials started coming out against the project in the weeks prior to the voting.
Opponents, including Slidell’s mayor and chief of police, argued the casino would lead to more crime, while faith-based groups suggested it would lead to a surge in problem gambling. In comparison, supporters argued the casino would have brought millions of dollars in potential tax revenue.
The proposed Camellia Bay development was set to be a $325 million casino resort near Slidell, near Oak Harbor and Interstate 10. It would have included a 250-room hotel, convention space, an outdoor amphitheater, lazy river and upgrades to an adjacent marina.
P2E claimed the Slidell casino would have created 1,000 permanent jobs, contributed more than $7 million in taxes per year, and generated up to $9 million each year for the parish as part of a 5% revenue sharing agreement.
The company laid off 349 workers at the DiamondJacks casino in October while it sought to move the license. Now that the project for St. Tammany has been rejected, operations in Bossier City are to resume in the near future: the state’s regulator gave the approval to move the license on the condition that, should the operator fail to do so, it would resume its Bossier City operations within 60 days.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment has allegedly invested millions in the failed Slidell project: campaigns costs both in favor and against the casino made it the most expensive political battle ever in St. Tammany, at about $3.5 million.