A Louisiana Senate committee narrowly advanced a bill Monday that would let a company move its casino license from Bossier City to St. Tammany Parish if parish voters and state regulators approve.
The change could boost tax revenue by more than $60 million, though the Legislative Fiscal Office said it’s difficult to estimate “due to a lack of specific plans and information.” Those numbers, however, don’t take into account the negative impacts the casino could have, especially in Slidell, where the facility may be placed, opponents said.
Pacific Peninsula Entertainment, or P2E, wants to relocate its casino license, one of 15 in the state. The company closed DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City last year.
P2E has proposed building a $250 million facility in Slidell, on the northeast shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish. The project could support 1,900 permanent jobs, said Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the Slidell Republican who authored Senate Bill 213.
“It’s about giving our local community the opportunity to vote,” Hewitt said, noting the Louisiana Gaming Control Board also would have to approve the move. Seven other lawmakers who represent parts of St. Tammany are co-authors.
The Shreveport/Bossier market is considered oversaturated. Moving a casino to southeast Louisiana could attract some state residents who otherwise might visit properties in Mississippi without taking very much business from the New Orleans market, supporters said.
Opponents, many of whom represented local churches, argued gambling always take more out of the economy than it puts in. Most gaming revenue comes from problem gamblers who spend more than they should, and casinos can become hubs for prostitution and sex trafficking, they said.
Some also argued that only Slidell, rather than the entire parish, should be able to vote, since Slidell will bear the brunt of the negative impact while the entire parish would share in the tax revenue. Hewitt said the parish as a whole voted down casino gaming in 1996, so the entire parish should have the option to reverse that position.
The judiciary committee advanced the bill on a 4-3 vote.
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