A casino referendum effort in Louisiana is gaining ground. This week, the Louisiana House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice approved House Bill 497. With a vote of 8-2, the committee wants to see a referendum for a casino license to move from Bossier City to the St. Tammany Parish move forward. The goal is to let voters decide on the matter and then if the state’s Gaming Control Board approves, then the move can take place.
Pacific Peninsula Entertainment would like to move its casino license from the DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City to a new location. The DiamondJacks venue closed in 2020. The market is considered to be oversaturated and a move to a new area would attract gamblers in the state who are traveling to Mississippi to gamble, thus keeping revenues in the state.
The company wants to create a facility in Slidell, spending $250 million and bringing in just under 2,000 employment positions. The move would also increase revenues for the company by over $60 million, according to Pacific Peninsula.
Opponents are concerned that an increase in problem gambling as well as prostitution will begin once the casino is moved. Those against the idea also think that the property values in the area will decrease. There are also individuals who are not confident that the gaming company will be successful.
During the House committee meeting, most members said they want to give voters the right to decide, even those who are skeptical. A debate took place before the bill, with lawmakers discussing their ideas about the measure.
While the bill was able to move forward, it still has a long way to go before being placed on the ballot. There is also a Senate measure, SB 213, that has the same goal as the House measure. The Senate Finance committee is holding the bill and has yet to have a hearing discussing it.
Earlier in the session, a judiciary committee was able to move the bill forward, but the movement is currently being questioned. The vote on the bill in the committee was a tie and the tie-breaking vote was completed by the chairman. While this is normal procedure, the chairman is married to a lobbyist connected to the casino project, so there is some conflict.
So now, the House measure must be approved by the full House to move over. It must also pass within two committees in the Senate and the full Senate. These steps must be completed by June 10, which is when the current session ends.
It is unclear as to if there is enough support for the measure to move forward. A measure was placed in the House and Senate in the hopes of seeing at least one move forward. Both efforts are still on the table, but with less than a month left, it is unclear if either will be able to push through and give voters the chance to make the decision on the casino license move.