The casino campaign has drawn attention to this 100-acre property in Slidell, but what will be next? | A Tammany

When Peninsula Pacific Entertainment publicly announced plans to set up a casino in St. Tammany Parish early last year, company CEO Brent Stevens could not have been more enthusiastic about the proposed location near Slidell.

He called the 100-acre plot, then in the hands of various banks and corporations, the best single casino site he had ever seen, in large part because of its marina and proximity to Lake Pontchartrain and the Twin spans of Interstate 10. Soon after, his company bought the land for about $ 14 million.

But P2E’s plan to turn the site into Camellia Bay, a $ 350 million casino complex, was torpedoed by voters in St. Tammany Parish on December 11 by a whopping 63%. The crushing defeat settled the question of whether a new generation of St. Tammany residents was ready to bring casino gaming to the parish.

Now, the fate of the property Stevens has found so promising remains in the hands of the company, and speculation is mounting whether the failed casino proposal will impact other potential investments in the parish.

P2E did not respond to questions about the company’s plans for the site.

“They have nothing to do,” said Chris Masingill, executive director of the parish’s economic development agency.

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Before P2E bought the site, the largest section had been acquired by Apex Bank of Tennessee and other plots were owned by entities and limited liability companies owned by members of the Bobby Torres family.

Undeveloped for decades, it’s prime real estate, Masingill said, and it’s now on the developers’ radar screen. That said, the marina is in poor condition and creating a viable project will require a significant infusion of funds.

“It’s an amazing property and location, but it has to be the right fit,” he said.

Parish council member Jake Airey, whose district includes the site, said the zoning was “pretty wide open”, raising concerns. The casino was “the devil you know,” he said.

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“I would really love to see something like the casino but without the casino,” Airey said. “A hotel, a place to put boats, restaurants.”

Developer Mike Saucier said that due to the development of the proposed casino there is a lot of information on the site which has a lot to offer. “We need a little activity by the lake, and I’m still optimistic,” he said.

But others fear that the casino’s defeat, coupled with the opposition that pushed back the planned expansion of medical supply giant Medline, could make developers suspicious of St. Tammany.

“Few parishes turn down a Fortune 500 company,” Parish Council member Mike Lorino said of Medline. “A casino isn’t a Fortune 500 business, but it’s economic development nonetheless.”

Economist Loren Scott said the two big denials are likely to make site selectors hesitant. “If it was just the casino – but it’s the casino plus,” he said.

Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer, however, does not view the casino’s defeat as a negative factor in attracting other business.

“Regulations and bureaucracy are a bigger barrier, and we’re trying to clear some of those lanes,” Cromer said. “I don’t see that a good deal, that an Amazon, doesn’t come” because of the casino.

Lorino said the parish had other strikes against her to attract developments, including votes against taxes and how this would affect the criminal justice center. “If you are competing with someone, it can be used against you,” he said.

While Masingill acknowledges that big projects like the casino and Medline don’t come up often, he insists that there are some good projects going on and that St. Tammany’s location continues to be an advantage.

“It doesn’t change,” he said.

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