Is St. Charles becoming a Mini Vegas?
U.S. News and World Report did a comparison of crime rates in cities with gambling versus those that do not allow gaming. The crime rates were significantly higher in the places that allowed gambling.
In 1996 there was a statewide election on legalizing gambling and each parish where it received a majority vote was allowed to have video poker machines. And the games began.
Currently, there are 246 video poker machines at 45 locations in the parish, uniting an otherwise seemingly quiet area of the state with other parishes that are part of a billion dollar gaming industry. Now with off-track betting, video bingo (that critics say resembles slot machines) and video poker spread parishwide, the opportunity to win big money quickly is seeping into quiet corners of the parish.
A proposed ordinance by Councilmen Desmond Hilaire and Barry Minnich which passed the council was vetoed despite concerns of Mimosa residents that gaming was hitting too close to home. The facility was allowed to remain open by a slim margin of five votes to four, six were needed to override the veto. And Minnich's ordinance requiring all future facilities wanting to open in the parish for video bingo and off-track betting to come before the council won approval, but only after an off-track betting facility in Luling had already received permission to open. Hasn't gaming already saturated the parish?
Residents want to know if the special use permit requirement will be enough to limit the gaming industry from completely invading the parish. What are our communities zoned for?
Mike Henderson, director of planning and zoning, says the permit the video bingo hall got met the requirements for zoning in that area. To grant them a permit and then take it away would have spun the parish council into a lawsuit.
With the possibility of a casino truck stop coming to Montz fairly soon, residents will have more of the same, because everything permitted for is within the codes and guidelines that are required for this form of entertainment. Zoning and ordinances are an important part of the process.
Concerned residents need to know what's coming in the area they live in before a permit is issued.
According to an article in a gaming newsletter called the Casino Times, gamblers in Louisiana lost $583.8 million playing video poker during the 2004-05 fiscal year at truck stops, bars, restaurants, hotels and off-track betting parlors, compared with $566 million for the 2003-04 year. Both fiscal years ended on June 30. At the same time, the number of truck stops offering video poker rose from 147 to 155. And truck stops can have 35 to 50 machines, based on its volume of fuel sales, compared with a maximum of three for bars and restaurants.
In St. Charles Parish, gaming revenue so far this year - - the amount spent by players loading their dollars into the popular video poker machines - - exceeded $22 million dollars, as of October 2007, according to Louisiana State Troopers Gaming Division.
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