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Tangi residents split on proposed casino and resort

Los Angeles-based company launches 'listening campaign' to hear concerns

ROBERT, La. -- For the past year, Tangipahoa Parish has rebranded itself with a new motto: Move Here.

A quick look at the number of new neighborhoods popping up in the southeastern corner of the parish shows people are buying in.

Now, a Los Angeles-based gaming company appears ready to go all in on the area, and that’s not sitting well with some residents.

Peninsula Pacific, which purchased an underperforming casino in Bossier Parish is considering whether it wants to revamp the Diamond Jacks Casino or move the project to the Tangipahoa River in Robert. If it moves the project to the north shore, it would build a resort complex, something the parish has never seen.

“When they start talking about over $100 million worth of investment, over 500 jobs, a conference center, entertainment venue, restaurants, it became very appealing to keep the conversation going,” said parish President Robby Miller.

Miller said several hurdles remain before the deal is done. Among those is a vote of residents.

Peninsula Pacific also would need to get approvals from the state Gaming Control Board and Bond Commission, an approval by the state Legislature to include the Tangipahoa River as an approved river for a casino and a referendum approval by the parish council.

Long before any of that happens, many residents are making their voices heard, especially those who would live in the shadows of the casino.

“I understand that it could be good for the economy, could bring jobs, revenue for the parish, the state,” said Vernon Gibbs, president of The Haven Homeowners’ Association, “but I don't know if they've given a lot of consideration to this subdivision and some of the other subdivisions that are being built.”

Concerns include overwhelmed infrastructure, struggling emergency services and a loss of quality of life.

“Some people are for it, but a lot of people like that small-town feel including myself,” said Bedico resident Rob Mitchell.

Peninsula Pacific said it wants to hear opinions from residents.

“We'll have what we call a ‘listening campaign,’” said Brent Stevens with Peninsula Pacific. “We're going to be going into the local community and listening to what people's thoughts, opportunities, hopes and wishes are as well as any concerns they may have and how we would address those.”

That campaign kicked off today with the launch of a website and Facebook page for residents to visit.