Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer and Mandeville Mayor Clay Madden announced in late July that they intend to vote “no” on the Nov. 13 referendum concerning a proposed $325 million casino project.
If passed, the politically charged referendum would permit Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) to transfer its Bossier City casino license to Slidell. Then P2E will build the casino-and-entertainment complex near the foot of the Interstate 10 twin spans in Eastern St. Tammany Parish. That’s just outside the city limits of Slidell, the district closest to the proposed casino site.
The proposed casino has been the subject of several lawsuits and petitions. One objection raised asserts that the action violates the state’s constitution.
Reasons for the mayors’ opposition include possible financial harm to local businesses and diminished quality of life in the area.
Change of heart on Cromer’s part?
A spokesperson for Peninsula Pacific Entertainment has accused the Slidell mayor of “flip-flopping” on the issue, pointing out that Cromer “welcomed us with open arms.” Spokesperson Jason Harbison went on to say that the mayor had shown company representatives around the city, recommended locations within Slidell and around eastern St. Tammany, and encouraged legislators to sponsor and pass legislation that would allow things to move forward.
“This project would not have advanced without his support,” Harbison said.
Despite giving developers a tour (which Cromer claims occurred after P2E had already chosen a site), Cromer had not previously taken a stand on the matter. Now the mayor has pointed out that local businesses worry about the proposed casino project’s impact and are “up in arms about it in a big way.”
Cromer has noted that economically depressed, high unemployment areas may benefit from casinos, but that in more favorable times a region may not fare well. Businesses may find themselves competing with casinos for staff, resulting in workers coming in from other areas and then spending their pay back in their home communities.
“While I respect the rights of all residents to vote, my family and I will be “no” votes on this matter,” Cromer has stated.
Madden ‘firmly against’ casino plan
Mayor Madden of Mandeville posted on social media that he is “firmly against” a casino in the parish, adding that in his opinion it would not be “consistent with the beautiful north shore’s quality of life.”
Pastor John Raymond also expressed quality-of-life concerns. He contended that any inconvenience caused by the proposed casino would burden the east side and not the west side, which, he asserted, is “incentivized by a 5% revenue share bribe.” (Estimates of that share amount to $7.5 million to $9 million every year.)
Casino gets thumbs down from top law enforcement
Randy Fandal, Slidell’s chief of police, and Randy Smith, St. Tammany Parish’s sheriff, recently announced that they oppose the casino construction as well. They have publicly expressed their concerns about a possible increase in area crime if the casino happens.
Both men are expected to speak at the Covington City Council meeting in August, along with at least one other casino opponent. The Slidell City Council already issued a statement that the casino project “is not a good fit for the future of our community” but decided to allocate $25,000 to study its possible economic impact on the area.
Peninsula Pacific on the lobbying offense
The day before Cromer’s statement, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment had pledged $35 million for a sports complex in east St. Tammany Parish, contingent and payable immediately on the Nov. 13 referendum passing. P2E had already increased its initial $250 million casino proposal by another $75 million in June.
Referencing the sports complex Brent Stevens, P2E’s CEO, wrote to Cromer, “Our goal is to demonstrate our commitment to being a strong community partner.”
Stevens added, “We also want to remove any uncertainty about the longevity of funding for this project.”
It is the citizens who have the final word on the matter, P2E spokesperson Harbison has said.