After heated debate, St. Tammany Parish Council backs putting casino project on fall ballot
ST. TAMMANY PARISH - A controversial proposed casino development that has divided St. Tammany Parish is one step closer to becoming a reality, according to nola.com.
The proposed project revolves around Pacific Peninsula Entertainment's (P2E) request to construct a $325 million casino resort near Lake Pontchartrain and the foot of Interstate 10 twin-span bridges outside of Slidell.
But the request garnered strong feelings from the community, which voted to outlaw gambling back in 1996.
So, the project's survival depended on whether or not local officials would overrule the 1996 law.
On Wednesday night, this is what members of the St. Tammany Parish council gathered to discuss. Each side voiced strong opinions about the proposed project and what construction of a casino would mean for their community.
A contentious debate that lasted nearly seven hours concluded with an 8-6 vote to put a referendum on the proposed casino on the Nov. 13 ballot.
Nola.com notes that those who voted for the measure included Council members Mike Lorino, Rykert Toledano, Maureen O'Brien, Jimmie Davis, Steve Stefancik, Martha Cazaubon, Marty Dean and Cheryl Tanner.
The news outlet lists those who voted against it as Jerry Binder, T.J. Smith, Chris Canulette, David Fitzgerald, Jake Airey and Mike Smith.
The outcome of the Wednesday night meeting appeared to be a significant win for P2E, as the Parish Council vote was necessary for the company to move its riverboat license from Bossier City, where it operated the now-shuttered DiamondJacks casino.
P2E's next hurdle is to obtain approval to move the license from The Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
Supporters of the controversial project hope it moves forward as they anticipate a local casino would bring much-needed tax revenue and employment opportunities to the community.
On the other side of the issue are opponents who feel the casino industry will do nothing more than bring additional crime, traffic, and related problems to their community.
Each side has been outspoken in its feelings on the issue, so much so that the Council was hit with two lawsuits this week.
The first, filed Tuesday by Covington attorney Charles Branton, requested that a judge halt the council vote with a temporary restraining order.
However, Judge John Keller denied that motion Wednesday, mere hours before the start of the council meeting.
Nola.com says the second suit, filed Wednesday by a local religious leader, contends that the parish must hold a referendum asking voters for blanket approval of casino gambling in St. Tammany, instead of a specific approval that would allow it in only one spot.
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