Sixty-three percent of voters in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish rejected a proposal to expand casino gambling there, scuttling a $325 million project that had been planned near Slidell.
Delayed from November because of the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, the vote was a resounding defeat for developer Peninsula Pacific Entertainment‘s Camellia Bay resort that would have included a 250-room hotel, amphitheater, conventional hall, and a renovated marina near Interstate 10 and Lake Pontchartrain. Among the opponents of the project had been St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith and Slidell Police Chief Randal Fandal. They stoked worries about the potential for increased crime in the area.
Though casino gambling is legal in other Louisiana parishes – mostly on riverboats – and nearby Mississippi, St. Tammany voters banned it in 1996. Retail Louisiana sports betting recently debuted in the state with mobile and online expected to launch by 2022.
Anti-gambling sentiment runs deep in this Louisiana parish
According to WWL-TV, early polling favored the casino the further respondents live from where Camellia Bay would have been built. In excess of $3 million was spent for pro-casino advertising and about $1 million successfully persuading voters against it. Among the endorsers for the amendment were former New Orleans Saints quarterback and PointsBet pitchman Drew Brees. He’d announced plans to open a steakhouse at the resort.
“Both sides waged very strategic campaigns, but it’s hard to change people’s minds once they’ve made up their minds,” WWL-TV political analyst Clancy Dubos said.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment had agreed to build a $35 million sports complex and pay St. Tammany Parish 5% of all gambling revenue. The company had moved a step closer to building the project in September when the Louisiana Gaming Control Board unanimously approved its request to transfer a license from one of its Bossier City riverboat casinos to the eventual Camellia Bay resort.