California casino company wants to move riverboat to North Shore

TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Moving a gaming boat to the North Shore is now one step closer to becoming a reality. A casino company out of California wants to move the boat from Bossier City to Tangipahoa Parish. But, those opposed to the bill let lawmakers know Tuesday.

The Tangipahoa River South of I-12 could one day be home to the Diamond Jack's Riverboat Casino. Right now, the boat is in Bossier City. But the casino's owner, Peninsula Pacific, a gaming company out of Los Angeles, wants to move it because the CEO says Tangipahoa Parish is an under-served market.

"There's about $260 million of gaming revenue from Louisiana that goes into Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, the vast preponderance of that goes past I-10 and I-12 and goes right through Tangipahoa Parish," said Peninsula Pacific CEO Brent Stevens.

A bill went before a Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, that if passed, will let Tangipahoa Parish voters decide whether they want the casino in their neighborhood.

"Everyone's attitude and plea I guess would be let the citizens have a chance to decide over the next several months. This is just one step to get us through. Over the next several months there will be many more meetings, many more opportunities for our public proponents and opponents to be able to discuss why we should or should not have this project in our parish," said Tangipahoa Parish President Robbie Miller.

But opponents are vocal. Parish pastors say the casino will hurt families.

"The casinos are never held responsible for the one who spends all the rent money, all the grocery money, all the electricity money, because they are enticed by the most brilliant marketing," said Crossgate Church Senior Pastor Louis Husser.

"I simply want to say this proposal will harm people, human beings. It will harm families, it will harm innocent people, children. I've seen them, I've been there, I pick up the pieces or at least try to help pick up the pieces," said First Baptist Church of Ponchatoula Senior Pastor Dr. David Cranford.

Despite that opposition, the committee voted to move the bill forward in the Senate. Peninsula Pacific's CEO says they're eager to have the ability to take the issue to the people.

"We will employ approximately 500 people, create about 2,000 construction jobs, and it will be a project that will create about $200 million in economic development in the next year," said Stevens.

If the bill passes, the issue would have to go before the Tangipahoa Parish Council and residents would eventually vote on the measure Nov. 6.

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