That chatter you’re hearing in Lafayette parish just might be people wondering about bringing video poker there.
Kevin Naquin, third-term Parish Councilman representing District 2, introduced the possibility of Lafayette video poker at a February Council meeting on a Tuesday night. He did so as a way to address the parish’s economic needs without having to raise taxes, which would be great news for residents!
The other four parish councilmen along with mayor-president Josh Guillory said they were amenable to letting residents vote on the matter. This would be the second time around as video poker legislation failed to pass in 1996.
“The times they are a-changin’”
— Bob Dylan
Ch-ch-ch-changes (and taxes)
Louisiana legalized video poker in 1991, but in 1996 around half of its parishes outlawed the machines. Those parishes included Lafayette but as Naquin noted, attitudes about other things have changed in the intervening years. For instance, marijuana has been legalized in many places. You can see ads for CBD oil online.
Councilman Josh Carlson considers that vote “at least an indication of where the public is.”
Another sign of the times? There’s even a petition on Change.Org to legalize Lafayette video poker.
Naquin also pointed out that video poker could serve as an alternative to raising property taxes or sales tax. The parish’s current property tax rate stands as one of the lowest median rates in the U.S.
“This is about the longevity and the future of the parish,” according to Naquin.
“The parish needs a revenue source to help subsidize the areas we’re lacking in and to allow us to do maintenance of roads, drainage, and bridges,” he said. Naquin called video poker “another solution parishes across the state of Louisiana do all day long.”
Estimates for local tax revenue if video poker were legalized in Lafayette Parish range from $1 million to $3 million.
Where’d the money go?
A standard argument for legalizing gambling or a form of it tends to be that the money just gets spent in other locales and benefits them instead.
“They’re spending it in St. Martin,” Naquin said. “They’re spending it in St. Landry. They’re spending it in Acadia.”
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board’s 2021 Annual Report put forth the amounts of video poker franchise fees collected by each of those parishes:
- Acadia Parish – $1.7 million
- St. Martin Parish – $3.5 million
- St. Landry Parish – $1.5 million
Those figures have stayed pretty much the same since the Control Board’s report for July 2015 to June 2016.
Losses to other places can sometimes be measured in jobs and actual physical property, as well as gambling tax revenues. In 2005 after almost 40 years in Carencro, Evangeline Downs moved to Opelousas, where it could operate as a racino.
But as pointed out in an op-ed in TheCurrentLA, the companies that own the video poker machines patrons would play on probably wouldn’t be based in Lafayette, so that revenue wouldn’t stay in the Parish, anyway. And while casino proponents often bring up the prospect of new jobs as a reason for permitting one, implementing video poker wouldn’t really create that much new employment.
“We’re not relying on gamblers to meet our needs,” Naquin said. “We’re looking to subsidize our reoccurring costs.”
But concerns about the possible human costs as well as any effects on quality of life as by-products of that subsidization are understandable sticking points. And similar concerns may have contributed to the voters’ rejection of a new casino in this past December’s Slidell casino referendum.
Regarding the possibility of more gambling options in Lafayette, Councilman John Guilbeau said, “I know what gambling also brings to the parish, and it can be a nightmare for us to manage if we’re not careful.”