SLIDELL, La. — This November, St. Tammany Parish voters will decide whether they want a casino in Slidell.
Wednesday night, the Parish Council narrowly passed a referendum to put the item on the ballot.
Now, the council and Parish President are facing two lawsuits.
One suit is being amended after a judge denied the petition to halt the council meeting. The second is pending and could derail the parish from voting on the proposed Slidell casino.
Pastor John Raymond of New Horizon Church in Slidell is also an elected member of the Republican Parish Executive Committee. He’s one of the people suing the Parish and the Parish Council.
“This might be the one thing that really stops this before it goes too much further,” Raymond said.
Raymond’s suit claims the elected leaders of the St. Tammany Parish are violating the Louisiana State Constitution and state laws by voting on a casino location before amending a 1996 vote which prohibits gambling in the parish.
“First, you’d have to have casino gambling passed in St. Tammany Parish parishwide. Then you can figure out where to put it,” Raymond said.
Raymond’s attorneys Josh and Ben Clayton also maintain the Gaming Control Board must weigh in before Peninsula Pacific Entertainment better known as P2E could open in Slidell.
“The law does require that there be approval of this licensed transfer which is being proposed from a failed casino in Bossier City to the Slidell area,” said Josh Clayton.
The trio are worried the casino proposal is driving a deeper wedge between east and west St. Tammany Parish. They believe language in the bill changed while in Baton Rouge which now allows the whole parish to decide what happens in Slidell.
“One of the concerns is that if it goes to a vote and the public votes on it and the public votes for casinos in St. Tammany Parish or just in Slidell, then the underlying law will not be legitimate. It will be subject to attack,” said Ben Clayton.
Raymond and his attorneys stress they support citizens having the right to vote and they hope the lawsuit clears up any issues.
“If they want to do it the right way, they need to send it back to Baton Rouge, have it done according to the Louisiana State Constitution and we can vote on it next year. What’s the hurry? People can vote on it the right way and it will be a solid vote when everyone has skin in the game, not just East St. Tammany,” Raymond said.
So far, no timetable on when this lawsuit could go before a judge.
Wednesday night, St. Tammany Parish leaders stressed they cannot comment on pending litigation.
As of now, the special election will be held on Saturday, November 13.