At their regular meeting last night, the Lafayette Parish Council opened discussion on the possibility of reintroducing gambling into the parish. Such a move would require the voters' approval, though it seems like there's a decent chance it will pass given that voters approved sports betting not too long ago, paving the way for lawmakers to codify it and begin the rollout process.

The reactions on KPEL's Facebook page were mixed, but hopeful for the idea to become reality.

That's all well and good, and you won't find me complaining if there are more options for people to have a chance to win some money. I once got lucky in Vegas on a hot slot machine and decided to cash out before the next person walked by to ask if I needed another drink (I did not). I'm not much of a gambler, and I am absolutely horrible at making picks when it comes to sports.

Now, it could be reintroduced as something as small as allowing video poker in bars and restaurants, which would be a boon for small businesses. We should absolutely consider things that benefit small businesses, and do so more frequently. If the parish council were bringing this up as a means of helping out those businesses that were perhaps hardest hit during the pandemic and shutdown, this column would be all about cheering the move on. The problem is, that appears to be the very last consideration anyone is making here.

The problem at the forefront of our local government appears to be revenue. They've struggled to get new tax initiatives passed and, as a result, the parish coffers are a bit light.

Naquin also sees a riverboat casino on the Vermilion River with a sports betting facility as a way to generate revenue for the general fund.

"If we're not going to fix the annexation problem or raise taxes, I want to put a plan out there and be productive," Naquin said. "This is about the longevity and the future of the parish.

[...]
"We're not relying on gamblers to meet our needs," Naquin continued. "We're looking to subsidize our reoccurring costs. People wonder why we're taking so long to clean the coulees. It's because the funding's not there."

Naquin wants the parish council and voters to consider what the parish gained and what it lost by voting out gaming. Naquin says he see lost money, because Lafayette residents are jumping across the parish line to gamble.

"They're spending it in St. Martin," Naquin said. "They're spending it in St. Landry. They're spending it in Acadia."

 

Courtesy: LCG/Jason Cohen Photography
Courtesy: LCG/Jason Cohen Photography
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I am instinctively wary of any government initiative that focuses on the impact on revenue. If you can't get tax initiatives passed, that's on you. The public appears to not trust the local government with more money, so they want you to spend more of your money in ways that aren't a direct tax on you. The problem is, it's essentially a tax on the businesses that install video poker machines.

Fix your house before robbing the voters' houses.

I get that we have to fund some pretty important things and we need more money to do so, but if the parish government wants more money to be rolling in, it's got to do a better job of being transparent. Account for every dollar in a clear, easy-to-understand way and take public comment on where the money is being spent and why it's going to Column A when it should be going to Column B, etc. Voters should, frankly, be wary of any government idea that centers (or even appears to center) around the impact on its revenue.

Whether or not this ends up just being about video poker machines or even a full-fledged casino in the area, this needs to be something that puts voters, not the government, first. Will this be good for the people of Lafayette? Will the pros outweigh the cons? Hard to tell when all anyone can talk about is the money.

For more commentary like this, tune into the Joe Cunningham Show every weekday from 3-4 p.m. on KPEL. You can also subscribe to the podcast on AppleSpotifyStitcher, or Amazon Music.

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