Slidell, La. Casino Site Rejected Last Fall Now an Eyesore for Local Business

The Slidell, Louisiana, casino site where a California gaming operator hoped to build a new resort has become an eyesore for the local community.

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

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

P2E subsequently 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-headquartered 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.

Blind Tiger Doesn’t Like What It Sees

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

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

Parish officials say they’ve received numerous complaints regarding the grass, which is as high as five feet in some areas. Thomas Genin, who owns The Blind Tiger, told WDSU this week that P2E’s 2021 land buy in Slidell included the marina.

Genin explained that P2E evicted boat lessees earlier this year and then fenced off the marina. That has resulted in a substantial decline in restaurant traffic for The Blind Tiger.

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

Parish officials, however, say they are limited in what they can require of the casino company and its maintenance of the property.

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

Future Unknown

Peninsula Pacific bought the Lakeshore Marina and its 100 acres for about $14 million in 2021. The sellers were a consortium of banks and companies that had maintained control over 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 put boats, restaurants,” St. Tammany Parish Councilor Jake Airey recently told the New Orleans Advocate.

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

Both projects were dependent on a successful casino referendum.

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