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Louisiana Supreme Court OKs St. Tammany casino referendum

November 30, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that a referendum on a proposed casino can be put to a vote in St. Tammany Parish as planned, overturning an appeals court ruling that could have jeopardized the election.

Monday’s decision means parish voters will decide the fate of the $325 million Camellia Bay casino resort near Slidell, news outlets reported. The casino question is the only item on the Dec. 11 ballot for St. Tammany Parish voters.

Slidell pastor John Raymond and attorney Charles Branton challenged the election’s constitutionality, saying residents must first approve casino gambling in the parish before voting on a specific location. St. Tammany voters banned the activity in 1996.

The Supreme Court ruling upholds an October decision by a district court judge that the lawsuit was premature. An appellate court determined that a trial on the merits should be held before the referendum was considered, sending the matter to the high court.

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Any legal questions on the constitutionality of the vote will be weighed after the election, if residents allow the building of the casino, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

Mike Lorino, chair of the parish council, said in a statement that the body can’t take a stance on the referendum but he encouraged people to vote.

“Whether you are opposed or support the gaming proposition, the only way to ensure that the result of this election truly reflects the voices of our parish residents is to go to the polls,” Lorino said.

St. Tammany voters approved fantasy sports betting in 2018, according to WDSU-TV, and they supported legalizing sports betting in 2020. Both passed with about two-thirds support.