Statement by St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis
Late last year, the media reported that I was exploring the possibility of putting an Entertainment Complex, with a casino, on Lake Pontchartrain near Interstate 10. At the time these reports were made, the parish was just beginning to explore this idea. In fact, the data gathering is not yet complete. Until today, I have released no written statement about this project.
The idea for this Entertainment District project came in response to a desire to reduce property taxes and, at the same time, expand our job base in the tourism industry. The casino was looked at as the key to financing the first-class hotels, convention center, performing center and other public projects that our community needs. Initial data supported the idea: over 10,000 Louisiana residents drive to the Gulf Coast casinos every day.
The Northshore Business Council commissioned a poll of St. Tammany citizens regarding the idea and a synopsis of that poll is attached to this release. The poll showed that the citizens who had an opinion on the issue were pretty evenly divided. Many wanted more information on the project. Community discussions were numerous and divided on the issue.
At the same time as we were looking at those issues, we had our legal team working on the legal steps necessary to directly tie the proceeds from this project to property tax reductions. I was informed this week that there is no way to directly tie the proceeds from this project to a reduction in property taxes without jeopardizing the parish’s existing ad valorem taxes.
I made it very clear that I could only support this project if it was tied into a reduction of property taxes. I am told by our attorneys now that there is not a responsible way for this to be done. As a result, I will not continue with the project in its present form.
The controversy that erupted over this project led to a great deal of spirited discussion in our community. We all talked about what we did and did not want in St. Tammany. We disagreed on many things, but there was overwhelming support for an entertainment district without a casino. It is my hope that the many voices that were heard, both pro and con for the current proposal, will unite behind a reconfigured Entertainment District.