Louisiana Voters Reject $325m Casino Project Despite Multimillion-Dollar Campaign

  • 63% of voters in St. Tammany Parish opted against allowing the $325m casino resort
  • Peninsula Pacific hoped to build the new casino near the Louisiana-Mississippi border
  • Opponents of the proposal had concerns about potential rises in crime and gambling addiction
  • The casino company will now have to reopen its Bossier City casino resort within 60 days
Person placing a vote in a box
Voters in Louisiana’s St. Tammany parish have rejected calls to allow a planned $325m casino project. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A comprehensive result

Residents of St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana have voted against plans to build a major casino resort in the city of Slidell. Proponents of the project have spent millions of dollars and numerous months lobbying the government and citizens. Despite this, 63% of voters ultimately sided against the $325m project.

The casino plan represented the sole item on Saturday’s ballot. The voter participation rate reached 30%, a larger turnout than usual local referendum numbers. Opponents of the project had previously pursued legal action to stop the vote from happening at all, with the plaintiffs claiming that the vote went against the state constitution. However, a Supreme Court ruling last week allowed the vote to go ahead.

planned to name the new property Camellia Bay Casino

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the firm trying to get the casino resort project over the line, has a Northwest Louisiana casino license. It has tried for a number of years to transfer this license to the southeast of Louisiana. The operator believes that this is an underserved market and, due to its location on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, would attract people from both states. Peninsula Pacific planned to name the new property Camellia Bay Casino.

A divide in opinion

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment first tried to move its casino license in 2018, but the Louisiana legislature blocked it. In 2021, the company’s attempts gained more traction. It received approval from the Louisiana legislature and the St. Tammany Parish Council to hold a local vote on the matter. Many state and local elected officials had backed the casino project, as well as New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.

Casinos or even video poker machines at truck stops have never been legal in St. Tammany Parish. Casinos first began opening across Louisiana in the 1990s which led to the parish voting in 1996 to make gambling illegal.

In contrast, the parish is also home to a number of officials who rallied against the idea of the new casino development. This includes the mayor of Slidell and the chief of police. They expressed concern that the casino would lead to higher levels of crime, especially human trafficking. Faith-based organizations also held concerns that it would lead to an increase in the levels of problem gambling.

People in some quarters also disliked the way in which the matter was put to voters. Normally, parishes vote on whether to expand gambling expansion or not on a parish-wide level, rather than voting on allowing gambling at just a specific site. No other casinos could also go ahead and open in the community if Saturday’s proposal received approval.

What happens next?

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment believed that the Slidell casino project would have created 1,000 permanent jobs, contributed more than $7m in taxes annually, and generated up to $9m each year for the parish as per the agreed 5% revenue share.

The operator decided to close its DiamondJacks casino resort in Bossier City in May 2020, believing the casino market in the area of Shreveport to be oversaturated. The company officially laid off 349 workers at the casino in October. However, after the rejection of the casino project in St. Tammany, it appears that gaming operations in Bossier City will now have to resume within two months.

Other Peninsula Pacific Entertainment properties include the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Iowa, the Colonial Downs Racetrack in Virginia, as well as the del Lago Resort & Casino in New York.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board had approved relocating the casino company’s license if St. Tammany voters okayed the measure. The regulator gave that approval on the condition that the operator would resume its Bossier City operations within 60 days if it failed to get public support.