Louisiana Voters Cleared to Cast Ballots Dec. 11 on St. Tammany Casino
Voters are set to cast ballots on Dec. 11 on a proposed Louisiana online casinos in St. Tammany Parish, northeast of New Orleans, according to a state Supreme Court ruling this week.
The Supreme Court on Monday reversed a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeal that would have halted next week’s vote.
Casino and Entertainment Complex Proposed
The parish’s 185,510 registered voters are being asked whether they want Peninsula Pacific Entertainment to build a $325 million project called Camellia Bay Resort Casino Marina on Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell.
If approved, the resort is scheduled to open in November 2023. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, known as P2E, is a privately held, Los Angeles-based development company that owns casinos and horse tracks. Its properties include the Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino near Opelousas, Louisiana, west of New Orleans.
The St. Tammany casino project is the only item on the Dec. 11 local ballot. The vote had been scheduled for November but was pushed back, allowing the area to recover from Hurricane Ida. Early voting started last Saturday.
Proponents say the casino complex will add $33.3 million in gaming tax revenue to the state and provide local governments with another $9 million in tax revenue, according to The Advocate newspaper. The resort is projected to employ thousands of people at an average income of $45,000 a year.
Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has endorsed the casino plan. If voters approve the project, P2E officials said the company would finance the parish's $35 million sports complex.
Opponents, including some local law enforcement officials and church leaders, have expressed concern that the site will attract crime and other societal problems.
Court Ruling Opens Door for December Public Vote
In 1996, St. Tammany residents voted against any casino gambling and video poker in the parish — the Louisiana term for counties.
Camellia Bay’s opponents wanted a decision first on whether any casino gambling could even take place in the parish before voting on a specific location, like P2E’s proposal.
In October, 22nd Judicial Court Judge John Keller ruled that a lawsuit by a local attorney and pastor, which challenged the constitutionally of the December P2E casino vote, was premature.
The appellate court later reversed the judge’s ruling. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday shot down that reversal, paving the way for the vote a week from Saturday.
The Supreme Court ruled that a decision about the constitutionality of the Dec. 11 vote could be determined after the election, if St. Tammany voters give the P2E casino project a thumbs-up.
Casino License Could Transfer from Bossier City to Slidell
Earlier this year, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board allowed P2E to transfer its casino license from Bossier City to Tammany Parish, pending the Dec. 11 public vote. The Shreveport-Bossier City area is in Louisiana’s northwestern corner.
The company’s Bossier City license had been issued for the DiamondJacks riverboat casino on the Red River. The riverboat casino closed in May 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
If the vote fails next week in St. Tammany Parish, P2E will have 60 days to reopen the casino in Bossier City.
Right now, 13 riverboat casinos are operational in Louisiana, along with one land-based hotel-casino in New Orleans and four racinos — horse tracks with slot machines.
Sports Betting Underway in Louisiana
Beginning in late October, sportsbooks have opened inside eight casinos across Louisiana. At least five more on-site sportsbooks are expected to open at casinos during the coming days.
Mobile sports betting will begin early next year, after the online bookmakers applying for a license have been approved, Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns told Gambling.com.
By a 2-1 margin, voters in St. Tammany Parish approved sports betting in a November 2020 statewide election. Residents in nine parishes, mostly in north-central Louisiana, voted against sports betting.
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