Is There A Super Casino Heading To Slidell?

There’s going to be a big focus on gambling in Louisiana during the next two years, and most of that focus is going to be on New Orleans and the towns and cities closest to it. That might not be to everybody’s tastes, but that’s just the way it is. This new focus became inevitable when the majority of parishes voted ‘yes’ to the idea of legalizing sports betting in Louisiana on the November 2020 ballot. That paved the way for sports betting to be introduced by the end of 2021, or 2022 at the latest, but also prompted new discussions about the future of gambling in the state in general. There’s one company hoping to take advantage of this new focus more than any other. 

It’s been more than six years since LA-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment bought a riverboat casino from Bossier City. They’ve spent all that time looking for the optimum place to put it. Now they believe they’ve found that optimum location – and it’s on Slidell’s waterfront in St. Tammany Parish. The company hopes that its refurbished boat will become the centerpiece of a new $250m casino development that will also include an enormous hotel and a brand new casino facility covering more than 50 acres of currently-vacant land next to the existing site of the Blind Tiger restaurant. The restaurant isn’t part of the current proposals but is unlikely to object to a move that would – theoretically at least – dramatically increase potential customer footfall in the area. 

While talks with the relevant authorities have already started and are said to be going well, this proposal is far from being a ‘done deal.’ Even with the changes prompted by the November 2020 ballot, it would currently be illegal to build a new casino in St. Tammany. That’s been the case since 1996 when voters rejected the construction of any new casino or gambling premises in their parish. The effect of that referendum would need to be undone for any proposed construction work to go ahead, and the public’s appetite for such a change is unknown. It can’t be tested until the spring session of Louisiana’s legislative government at the earliest, and even that might be too early. A bill would have to be drawn up before it could be voted on, and it might take all of the spring for that to happen. Should permission be granted, we don’t expect to see the construction project break ground until toward the end of the summer. 

We should also note that the same company has failed with broadly similar ideas in the past. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment wanted to move its Bossier City Diamond Jacks Casino to Tangipahoa in 2018 and received an emphatic rejection from the area’s authorities before proposals could even be discussed. Officials in St. Tammany appear to be more receptive than their Tangipahoa counterparts were, but that doesn’t mean they’re prepared to back the proposal at this stage. A lot of this will probably depend on how much the authorities could make from having a large casino on their territory – and that’s where things may have changed since 2018. As state after state wakes up to the realization that there’s enormous money to be had in permitting their citizens to gamble, pressure grows on those who are lagging behind to follow suit. 

The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to permit sports betting led to a re-evaluation of gambling legislation all over the United States of America, much of which hadn’t been examined since the days before online slots websites and online gambling became a reality. Ever since it became possible to gamble on the internet through online slots websites hosted out of state (or, in some cases, in foreign countries), American citizens have been free to gamble online however they wished. It was no longer impossible to gamble, but the revenue from that gambling went out of state and didn’t benefit the local area. That’s forced legislators to change their tune. It’s also forced a change of approach from brick-and-mortar casinos. Because of the sophisticated casino promotions offered by online slots websites, many traditional casinos have had to alter their terms to become ‘friendlier’ to gamblers. That, in turn, has led to a ‘new breed’ of casino. Casinos still make far more money than the people who play games in them do, but the incentives and promotions on offer tend to make the initial price of engagement lower. 

That’s not to say that this proposed new casino in Slidell would be a like-for-like match for whatever terms gamblers might be offered online. While cut-price deals exist, very few real-world casinos are able to match the ‘free bet’ promotions that many web-based casinos currently offer. Offers like that are appearing everywhere at the moment in the run-up to the Super Bowl, which is expected to be the biggest sports betting event in American history. The questions that Peninsula Pacific Entertainment and its allies will have to answer won’t just involve the viability of a new large-scale casino in the seafront area but will also include questions of the long-term sustainability of such an enterprise in the face of growing competition from the internet. It seems to be inevitable that online betting will become fully legal everywhere in the USA eventually, and that will be a ‘make or break’ moment for casinos that still require their customers to show up in person to place their bets. 

Those in favor of the proposals say a lot of gamblers in the area take their money to Mississippi to place their bets, and so all the new initiative would do is keep that money in the state and profit from people who already gamble as a matter of course anyway. Opponents say that allowing gambling closer to home will encourage more people to gamble, with all the potential harm to the fabric of society that gambling can do. This is what persuaded people to vote against the idea at the 1996 referendum, but the fact that 67% of people in St. Tammany voted in favor of sports betting suggests that attitudes have changed in the 25 years since then. There are also the economic benefits to consider, including around 1700 jobs created by the construction project and 1900 people required to fully staff the new casino once it’s open. On top of that, the local government would stand to receive around $10m per year when the casino is open. It’s hard to look at numbers like that and say ‘no.’

This matter will almost certainly be handed back to the voters to decide, with a likelihood that it will be approved. Could there be an enormous gambling paradise on the doorstep of New Orleans? To borrow a phrase from the casino world, we wouldn’t bet against it. 


Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *