Voters for the Slidell Casino site were rejected last fall

Published on: August 23, 2022, 11:38 am.

Last update: 23 August 2022, 11:53.

The casino site in Slidell, Louisiana, where a California gambling operator hoped to build a new resort, has become a crisis for the local community.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) has permanently closed its DiamondJacks casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, amid the pandemic. The company said Bossier City has become an unattractive market because of too much competition. P2E sought state approval to move its gaming license from Louisiana to Slidell.

But before P2E’s proposed $325 million project, called Camellia Bay Resort, could break ground, local voters in the Parish of St. Tammany had to give their approval. That endorsement never came, as 63 percent of voters rejected the question in a casino ballot last November.

P2E later sold most of its assets to Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. But Churchill had no interest in reopening DiamondJacks, and the shuttered property was later sold on the cheap to Mississippi-based Foundation Gaming.

Churchill also had no interest in buying P2E’s land in Slidell. As a result, the Slidell property remains vacant and its future unknown.

The blind tiger doesn’t like what he sees

P2E hoped to bring a premier casino resort to Lakeshore Harbor off Interstate 10 north of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. The casino was to be built next to The Blind Tiger restaurant.

The failed casino property has since been left untended. Local businessmen say the sprawling 100-acre site has been overgrown with grass and weeds.

Parish officials say they have received numerous complaints about the grass, which is up to five feet tall in some areas. Thomas Genin, who owns The Blind Tiger, said WDSU This week, P2E’s 2021 land purchase in Slidell included the marina.

Genin explained that P2E evicted the boat renters earlier this year and then fenced off the marina. This resulted in a substantial drop in restaurant traffic for The Blind Tiger.

“We want anything to happen,” Genin said of some sort of vacant land maintenance and/or port reopening.

However, parish officials say they are limited in what they can ask of the casino company and property maintenance.

“We’re going to send our code enforcement officers back there to see what we can do to help,” explained Michael Vinsanau, a former WDSU reporter who is now the parish spokesman.

The Unknown Future

Peninsula Pacific bought Lakeshore Marina and its 100 acres for about $14 million in 2021. The sellers were a consortium of banks and companies that had retained control of the property.

Local officials hope the casino plan, though it failed, will bring enthusiasm to the region for another development.

I would like to see something like the casino, but without the casino. A hotel, a place to moor boats, restaurants,” The parish councilor of St. Tammany’s Jake Airey said recently The New Orleans Lawyer.

Slidell and St. Tammany missed out on many potential economic benefits by rejecting Camellia Bay. In addition to construction and permanent jobs, plus annual tax revenue from gaming and general resort operations, P2E has pledged to donate $5 million to help build a long-delayed Slidell ring pier. The company also committed $35 million to build a community athletics center at the marina.

Both projects were contingent on a successful casino referendum.

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