California-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) has an established presence in Louisiana, where it holds a license to operate a casino in Caddo Parish. The operator previously ran the DiamondJacks Casino & Hotel in the parish’s Bossier City, but it shut down last year due to COVID-19 issues. Now, ready to get back in the game, P2E has suggested that St. Tammany Parish, on the state’s southern coast, would be a better option for a venue, and the idea has the St. Tammany Parish’s ears burning with enthusiasm.
In a hearing held this past Monday night, the St. Tammany Parish Council discussed the idea proposed by P2E and its CEO, Brent Stevens, to potentially bring a $250-million casino resort to the city of Slidell. That lies just outside of New Orleans, and would potentially be able to capitalize on the large local population, as well as the tourist traffic that routinely descends on the Big Easy. The council voted on the proposal, overwhelmingly giving it a thumbs-up.
That approval doesn’t mean that P2E has the green light to move forward, but it is a huge step in the right direction. The company has to move its license from Caddo Parish to St. Tammany Parish but, with the council’s blessing, state lawmakers can now draft a bill to get the process started and allow parish residents to vote on the idea. That bill would need to be approved by the state legislation and Governor John Bel Edwards, after which it would be placed on the ballot to be voted on by parish residents. Only a simple majority of voters would have to approve the measure for P2E to move forward.
Years ago, the idea of adding a casino to St. Tammany Parish was way out in left field and had no chance of being taken seriously. Voters rejected the notion in 1996, but times change and the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst for a number of changes in how gambling is viewed. The council approved the idea this past Monday by a vote of 11-1, which shows that there is strong interest in allowing P2E to come into town. Given that the company expects to be able to put 1,700 construction workers and 1,000 permanent employees to work, while providing tens of millions of dollars in annual economic impact, it’s not too surprising that the proposal was accepted.
P2E is sweetening the deal just in case it needs some extra juice. The company has reportedly agreed to spend $30 million on a sports and entertainment complex at the new property, as well as put up $5 million to repair the Slidell ring levee. That barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and residents has been in a state of disrepair for years, and $5 million would go a long way toward protecting the locals.