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Slidell Officials Share Concern with Adoption of Historical Horse Racing Terminals at OTB Parlor

A little over a year after following the decision of St. Tammany Parish’s voters to reject a casino proposal estimated at $325 million, Slidell officials are fighting against so-called historical horse racing machines, a form of gambling that has never appeared on a ballot in the parish.

In 2021, a bill allowing up to 50 of the historical horse racing machines to be situated at off-track betting parlors was adopted by state lawmakers. The electronic devices provide players with the chance to see the odds for each horse but they do not provide names and the date and place of the races.

According to some critics, most players simply let the machine choose a horse for them, while Slidell officials say that the terminals resemble slots or video poker machines, which are currently illegal in St. Tammany Parish. Greg Cromer, Mayor of Slidell, has also spoken against the machines, saying that he did not want them in the city.

He explained that historical horse racing terminals did not involve any skill or science and involved only pushing in the money and pushing the button. The city mayor also highlighted the fact that the historical horse racing machines were not the same as pari-mutuel wagering that is carried out on live horse races.

Slidell Officials Prepare for Court Battle over Historical Horse Racing Machines

Despite their criticism of the machines, it remains unclear what Slidell officials are able to do to prevent historical horse racing machines from operating in the city. Mr. Cromer confirmed that, several months ago, the owners of the OTB – Churchill Downs – applied for an official permit to do some interior construction work but its plans have not been given the green light by the city officials.

Slidell’s mayor shared that the city is not fighting the OTB but he believed that it would have a chance with historical horse racing terminals. He further shared that local officials had been told to expect legal action, which is why the city is currently negotiating a contract with attorney Tom Thornhill.

As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, legislation seeking to make historical horse racing terminals available was officially adopted at the end of the 2021 session. At the time, the supporters of the bill claimed that the adoption of the piece of legislation would help Louisiana’s horse racing industry. Slidell officials had not known what to do in terms of the move to expand gambling in a parish that had already rejected it.

Both the OTB and the Slidell area site of the casino that was rejected by local voters in late 2021 are included in the same district of St. Tammany Parish.

Lately, local voters have raced a referendum on casino gambling, with 63% of them voting against the proposal of Penninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) that would see the company establish a new casino in close proximity to the I-10 twin span bridges. Since the “no” vote, P2E has disposed of many of its assets to Churchill Downs, despite the fact that it remains the owner of the land it purchased near Slidell that was supposed to host the failed Camellia Bay project.

The expansion of so-called historical horse racing machines is not the first time when Slidell OTB has caused some concern among local officials. Previously, P2E had made an agreement to establish a sports complex worth $35 million in the eastern part of the district in case local voters gave the green light to the proposed casino, but the deal had a 7-year, non-compete clause. The sports complex initiative and some other incentives vanished when voters turned down the proposed casino.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.