Lawsuit Could Force Issue On Historical Horse Racing In Slidell

Written By Derek Helling on January 9, 2023 - Last Updated on January 10, 2023
historical horse louisiana gambling machines lawsuit

Louisiana gambling includes an element of local control that is unique but not absolute. As local leaders in part of St. Tammany’s Parish are discovering, their oversight over what if any forms of gaming will occur within their neighborhoods is subject to state law in some ways.

The proponents behind a potential off-track-betting site in Slidell are trying to open their facility but so far are running into local opposition. They might soon turn to the Louisiana court system to take advantage of a state law regardless of local sentiments.

Louisiana gambling law could run afoul of Slidell populism

At issue is a 2021 law that allows gambling on live horse races at licensed facilities in Louisiana. The same law approved the operation of historical horse racing (HHR) machines at the same places. In Slidell, which is in St. Tammany’s Parish, such gambling has received a cold reception at best.

According to Sara Pagones of The Advocate, local leaders like Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer have expressed their disapproval of historical horse racing.

“We don’t want historical horse racing in the city limits. It looks like it’s nothing more than a gloried slot machine. You push in the money and push the button. That’s how it looks to the mayor. The (Louisiana) Racing Commission may argue it’s different.”

The anti-gambling sentiment across all of St. Tammany’s Parish has mostly been consistent. Late in 2021, voters in the parish defeated a referendum that would have allowed a resort-style casino to operate in Slidell.

At the same time, the parish’s voters did approve of allowing online sports betting at nearly the same time. Despite the bias against casino gaming in Slidell, an OTB with HHR machines might be inevitable.

Churchill Downs could get its way anyway

Churchill Downs owns the building in Slidell where it has applied for the necessary approvals to open the OTB. Pagones reports that Churchill Downs has been waiting for months on a building permit to renovate the former Ruby Tuesdays restaurant.

Cromer also told The Advocate that the city doesn’t plan to fight Churchill Downs on opening the OTB. However, Cromer also stated that the city is considering its options when it comes to the HHR machines at the site.

That’s where the interpretation of state law and the issue of local control of gambling in Louisiana could be matters that state courts decide. Pagones stated that a member of the Slidell City Council is expecting a lawsuit.

Whether that would come from Churchill Downs to force the issue or from the city to potentially block the implementation of HHR machines is still up in the air. What seems certain, though, is that HHR gaming might not be a roaring success in Slidell.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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