Long Beach Taking Sides On Casino Vote

Long Beach voters are starting to take sides on whether casinos should be part of the solution to the city's post Katrina money woes. Next month, residents will cast their ballots in a non-binding referendum on land based gaming.

Mayor Billy Skellie says if a casino does come in, it will likely be built across from the harbor. That would put gaming across the street from people living on Fifth Street.

The sign in Dick and Nola Dickens' yard reads, "We're back. Smaller and Poorer."

"It certainly tells the truth about what's going on," said Dick Dickens.

The couple is living in a FEMA trailer in Long Beach. They say the sign describes their family and their city.

"I'm not briefed enough on city administration, but I know now the tax base has got to be almost zilch," said Dickens.

The Dickens live on Fifth Street and across from where a casino could one day be built should voters decide to approve gaming.

Dick Dickens said, "I hope the people of Long Beach will go for it. I don't see that it could possibly hurt Long Beach. The only thing I see is that it would benefit."

His neighbor Nancy Thompson feels differently.

"I wouldn't care to be across from a casino."

The house is gone but Billy and Nancy Thompson still consider Fifth Street home. They don't want casinos to cost Long Beach its small town charm.

"I like the culture and this would destroy what drew us to this area," she said. "We came down from Rochester, New York and I loved it down here."

Helping Long Beach rebound from Katrina's destruction is everyone's goal, but not everyone agrees on how to go about it.

"Anything can be overcome," said Thompson. "We just need to have a goal and our priorities."

Long Beach voters will have their say on land based gaming on Tuesday, June 27th. The polls will open at 7am and the close at 7pm. This is a non-binding referendum to judge how residents feel about bringing casinos to the city.