6 council members say they will ban video bingo
Six St. Charles Parish council members plan to cast their votes against Parish President Albert Laque’s veto, which will permanently close the Luling Video Bingo Palace.
On Dec. 3, at the next council meeting, councilmen Desmond Hilaire, Ram Ramachandran, Deryl Walls, Richard Duhe, Snookie Faucheux, and Barry Minnich will not support Laque’s veto.
“We need six votes for the veto to fail and I will stand by my ordinance and vote against the veto,” Hilaire said. “I didn’t try to influence the council or persuade anyone to vote one way or the other.”
Two council members, Brian Fabre and Lance Marino, say they will support the veto and vote in favor of Laque’s decision.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the owners,” Fabre said. “They got all of their permits and did everything they were required to do and to shut them down after the fact sets a bad precedence for entrepreneurs who want to come into St. Charles Parish.”
Marino voted against the ordinance originally.
“I voted the ordinance down the first time around,” he said, “The owners have already made an investment in the parish, in the future. If other video bingo halls were to come in, Barry’s (Minnich) ordinance forces the owners to come before the council to request a special use permit, so the council will have a say so next time around. I don’t feel like if we let them stay, we are creating a monopoly.”
Councilwoman April Black says with the election just ending she’s still trying to adjust and get back on track.
“I’m just getting finished with my election race and I haven’t had time to consider all sides of the issue,” Black said. “I have about three weeks to really study everything and I plan to and then make my decision, as I’ve done with all of my decisions since I’ve been a part of the parish council.”
Historically, when it comes to vetos of ordinances in the past, council members said there are usually no public hearings allowed or council discussion.
“I believe how it works is the veto message will be read when the council meets and members will cast their votes,” Minnich said. “Then it’s a done deal.”
“Three-fourths of the people that attended the council meeting in protest of the video bingo hall live in my district where the hall will be located,” Minnich said. “I’ve gotten phone calls and emails about the veto, and people are asking me to stand my ground. I will.”
Brett Sulzer, attorney and partial owner of 13 video bingo halls, protested the decision at the Nov. 5 council meeting and threatened to sue the parish.
“He should sue us,” Ramchandran said. “I told him that at the council meeting and I meant it, but it doesn’t change the fact that the majority of the people don’t want it in our parish. We should vote it out of here, besides we’ve been sued before.”
Hilaire’s got a back up plan.
“I’m currently working on an ordinance, that, should the veto pass, will enforce a tax on the proceeds collected from the Luling Video Bingo Palace, similar to taxes enforced in Hammond and Westwego,” he said. “I want to see that the money collected will go to organizations like the Cancer Society, Cystic Fibrosis, Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, recreational departments in the parish and scholarship foundations.”
Hilaire’s ordinance to ban video bingo in the parish would close down the Luling Video Bingo Palace for good. In a shocking turn of events that stunned council members who voted video bingo out of the parish, Laque vetoed the decision.
“I will support Mr. Laque’s decision,” Fabre said.
The council meeting will be held on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in Hahnville.