The eve of a much anticipated St.Tammany Parish council vote for putting a Slidell area casino referendum on the ballot of November 13 encountered a blow from the top local law enforcement official with an attempt to file a suit in the court against the proposal.
The St. Tammany Parish sheriff Randy Smith and Slidell police chief Randy Fandal in a hasty news conference on a Tuesday afternoon, reported that they were highly concerned about how the Slidell casino will impact the crime in the area.
The story behind Slidell casino
Peninsula Pacific entertainment has been trying to persuade many elected officials and residents to provide support for its plan to build a $325 million casino and resort on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain near the Interstate 10 twin span bridges just outside Slidell.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board still has to give its consent to the developers to move the casino’s license from Bossier City to St. Tammany Parish. Also, the casino has yet to receive permission from the voters of the Parish.
In this regard, Mike Lorino, the St. Tammany Parish council chairman, reported on Tuesday of a scheduled meeting on Wednesday. However, at the news conference at the Sheriff’s Office in Slidell, Fandal and Smith were speaking against the scheduled council vote as they were concerned about the increasing impact on crime in the area. The casinos in the area will surely escalate prostitution, human trafficking, substance abuse, and suicides.
Smith said that P2E had instructed them to increase patrolling in the nearby subdivisions. They said they are committed by P2E to having funds for a new sheriff outpost with 24/7 patrolling in the surrounding neighborhoods to provide additional law enforcement to the area.
The spokesman for P2E further stated that they would partner with the sheriff whenever needed as they have a strong working relationship in every jurisdiction with every law enforcement. However, the scheduled vote operating the referendum on the November ballot fell for a lawsuit on Tuesday by Covington attorney Charles Branton. He filed a suit in the 22nd Judicial District Court to block this particular council vote.
There was an agreement between the Parish Economic Development Agency and P2E for adding 2% of the 5% in net gaming revenues for the Sheriff’s Office. The casino has agreed to pay all the local governments. The developers have estimated the annual payout to the Parish for as much as about $9 million.
Randy Smith says that he was not against gambling but didn’t want it in St. Tammany and asked the developers to build the casino resort in New Orleans or Mississippi, where people support such casinos.
On the other hand, the Branton suit argues that the bill requires the approval of the Gaming Control Board much before the conduct of a council vote election, marking it as a first step towards conducting elections. Branton further argues that it violates the state constitution that allows only a yes or no vote for allowing gambling to include a ballot with a specific licensee and a specific location.
The Parish officials are declining to further comment on the matter by saying that their legal counsel is reviewing the suit.