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Proposed Slidell casino sparks conversation, concerns in South Mississippi

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:47 PM CST
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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX/AP) - A potential new casino just over the Louisiana state line has sparked conversation in South Mississippi about the development.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that a referendum on a proposed casino can be put to a vote in St. Tammany Parish as planned, overturning an appeals court ruling that could have jeopardized the election.

Monday’s decision means parish voters will decide the fate of the $325 million Camellia Bay Casino & Resort near Slidell. The casino question is the only item on the Dec. 11 ballot for St. Tammany Parish voters.

Louisiana voters will head to the polls Dec. 11 to decide whether or not plans for the Camellia...
Louisiana voters will head to the polls Dec. 11 to decide whether or not plans for the Camellia Bay Resort Casino will be allowed to proceed in Slidell or not.

Opinions on the new casino range from opposition to a begrudging acceptance.

“I don’t think it would be good for us at all,” said retired business owner Bill Lady. “It would be certainly very difficult to lose the flow of traffic that we normally get from that area.”

Lady moved to Hancock County from Chicago in 1976 and owned at least six businesses in the area before retiring. When the Isle of Capri - Mississippi’s first dockside casino - opened in Biloxi nearly 30 years ago, Lady owned a nearby resort.

“I actually would not like to see it, but I understand the economic impact and I supported it here,” said Lady.

Other business leaders in the county see it as a joint venture that will help both South Mississippi and Southeast Louisiana.

“We rely on their businesses, and they rely on our businesses,” said Tish Williams, Executive Director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t concerns.

“The biggest concern will just simply be that the pie is limited. The market is limited,” said Williams. “And so, when a new casino comes in, how will that impact the other casinos in Hancock County? And, then, from there, how will that impact the small businesses?”

Williams describes the county’s relationship with St. Tammany Parish as a regional marketplace and said she looks forward to working together with its local leaders.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the people of St. Tammany Parish to create these economic opportunities,” she said.

The casino, Camellia Bay Resort, is estimated to cost around $325 million. It is the only item on the Dec. 11 ballot for St. Tammany Parish voters.

Slidell pastor John Raymond and attorney Charles Branton challenged the election’s constitutionality, saying residents must first approve casino gambling in the parish before voting on a specific location. St. Tammany voters banned the activity in 1996.

The Supreme Court ruling upholds an October decision by a district court judge that the lawsuit was premature. An appellate court determined that a trial on the merits should be held before the referendum was considered, sending the matter to the high court.

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