California company steps up push for North Shore casino

California company steps up push for North Shore casino

HAMMOND, LA (WVUE) - A company that wants to relocate a gambling operation from Bossier City to the North Shore stepped up its public relations campaign Thursday.

The plan is now before the Legislature and could wind up on a fall ballot.

The California-based company Peninsula Pacific spelled out details of its $100 million plan to build a casino and 600 hotel rooms down a sleepy road near Robert.

"We made our first investment in gaming in 1999,"  said Brent Stevens, who owns a company that operates nine casinos across the country.

It currently owns the license for Diamond Jack's casino in Bossier City, which he says is losing money, and he now wants to move that license to the potentially lucrative North Shore market south of I-12 at the Robert exit, 5.5 miles from St Tammany Parish. It is a rapidly growing area.

"We own a license in Bossier. If for some reason it doesn't happen in Tangipahoa, we will look at our options," said Stevens.

Stevens went before a group of about 50 invited guests in Hammond today to discuss his proposal to take over a 100-acre piece of property off Highway 445. If all goes as planned, the company would operate the only casino along I-12 between Baton Rouge and Mississippi, producing an estimated $5 million a year for parish coffers.

"I have a responsibility to bring jobs," said Parish President Robbie Miller, who admitted he's getting push-back from religious leaders.

The Peninsula proposal calls for 600 hotel rooms to be built in phases around a 27,000-square-foot casino and a 1,700-seat concert venue that would bring in 50 touring acts a year. That would put it in direct competition with other regional casino venues.

"There's about $260 million of gaming revenue leaving Louisiana and going to Mississippi, and you would expect them to lobby against that," said Stevens.

The project was a main topic of conversation at the hair salon next-door.

"I  don't believe in it...but if everyone else likes it...that's their business," said Vera Smith of Hammond.

Diana Rogers added, " I like to gamble, instead of Mississippi...we could do it right here.'

The proposal has cleared Senate committee and faces three more votes in the Legislature, then a vote of the people of Tangipahoa sometime before  the end of the year.

Peninsula Pacific officials say their casino complex could produce as many as 500 permanent jobs, with average salaries of around $35,000 a year.

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