The company that operates the closed DiamondJacks riverboat casino in Bossier City has its eyes set on greener pastures elsewhere in the state.
But the path to a future casino in St. Tammany Parish isn’t exactly clear.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) has identified a site for the land-based casino it hopes to build in the parish. Before it can break ground, however, it will need some help from both the state legislature and the local community.
Why does P2E want to open a St. Tammany casino?
Location, location, location.
Peninsula Pacific thinks the new site in the southern part of Louisiana will bear more revenue. The 100-acre site near Slidell is close to not only Interstate 10 but also Lake Pontchartrain and the Lakeshore Marina.
The company closed DiamondJacks last year. Obviously, 2020 proved rough for all Louisiana casino license holders, as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant loss of revenue. Peninsula Pacific believes its license would be more useful on the new site.
In addition to the casino, the company wants to build a 250-room hotel. The project will encompass half of the plot. So far, there are no public details about how the company would utilize the other 50 acres. An estimate of the construction cost sits at $250 million.
Peninsula Pacific is currently in talks with officials in the parish. Although those meetings seem to be going the casino’s way, the project has many more minds to sway.
Broad coalition of support needed to proceed
Local officials are speaking highly of the project’s chances. Parish Council Chairman Michael Lorino, Jr. said that many people in the parish go to Mississippi or New Orleans to do their gambling. He thinks having an attractive venue could change that.
Even with the backing of local officials, though, there’s a lot of work to do.
The possible next step for P2E is having the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approve its plans. To date, P2E has not sought approval from the board to relocate its license or build the site near Slidell.
Beyond that, the company needs the state legislature to approve a potential ballot measure for voters in the parish. In 1996, St. Tammany voters elected to ban casinos and video poker within the parish’s borders. Right now, there’s no indication of which way the majority of lawmakers in Baton Rouge may land on this issue.
How soon could a St. Tammany casino open?
Should the legislature acquiesce, the referendum would take place in November 2022. If approved by a simple majority, P2E would likely break ground early in 2023. There is optimism that the measure to repeal the earlier sanction would pass.
“Times change, no matter what the issue is,” Lorino said. “Maybe years ago this project would have had an issue.”
Lorino pointed to the fact that last November’s vote to approve sports betting in St. Tammany passed with a 2/3 margin. Every precinct in the parish voted in favor of legalizing sportsbooks. That suggests Lorino’s reading of the room is accurate.
If everything goes right, a new casino near Slidell may open sometime in 2024. For the time being, it’s just a matter of P2E weighing the odds.