BATON ROUGE, LA.
Amid charges of vote-rigging and favoritism, lawmakers here have narrowly given their approval to a bill that gives Louisiana backers of casino gambling a beachhead.
Gov. Edwin Edwards, the state's chief advocate of legalized gambling, says: "I am totally committed to making this work in the interests of the city [New Orleans] and the state."
Legislative approval for the casino idea was a major political victory for the Democratic governor, who said: "I firmly believe the $200 million in anticipated revenue will go far with helping us provide a better state government and better state services for people throughout Louisiana...."
But as Mr. Edwards basked in his triumph, casino opponents promised to fight on. Republican Secretary of State Fox McKeithen announced that he would file a suit to prevent construction of a casino, while others are promising to take the casino bill to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the establishment of any legalized gambling is a violation of Louisiana's constitution.
"I think we could actually turn this all around in court," said Sen. John Hainkel (R) of New Orleans, who voted and spoke against the casino bill.
"It is a violation of our present state law; and, besides, it's a terrible thing for New Orleans and Louisiana. We're going to push for a referendum on this thing and argue before the voters the case that any casino will only bring in corruption and congestion."
The new Louisiana law provides for just one casino, located in New Orleans. But its revenues will be applied statewide. It provides that the casino be located at the site of the Rivergate convention center in New Orleans - nowhere else. The center is a 1960s-era facility near where the French Quarter almost meets the Mississippi River. It has mostly gone unused in recent years.