Lafayette Councilman: Video Poker Could Help Solve Money Woes
On November 5, 1996, Lafayette Parish voters said "no" to video poker.
Lafayette was one of 33 parishes in Louisiana to outlaw the gaming devices on that day 25 years ago. Since then, the parish has lost Evangeline Downs to Opelousas and casino revenues to neighboring parishes that voted to keep video poker.
Parish councilman Kevin Naquin says it's time the parish starts keeping some of that money within its borders. The District 2 councilman says video poker is one solution to a revenue problem that has plagued Lafayette Parish for years.
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.
Naquin and his fellow councilman will discuss the feasibility of bringing video poker back to Lafayette Parish during Tuesday night's regular council meeting. It begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Ted Ardoin Auditorium at Lafayette City Hall.
"Yes, we have ARPA money, but that's all one-time money," Naquin said. "Over the years, we've had millages for roads and bridges and drainage. We've had millages for libraries, and they're all suffering. I get that we don't want to pay any more taxes, but the parish needs a revenue source to help subsidize the areas we're lacking in and to allow us to continue to do maintenance of roads, drainage, and bridges. If we're not going to pay property taxes, we have to find a solution. I'm bringing a solution out there so we can consider as a 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."
According to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board's 2021 Annual Report, St. Landry Parish received $1.5 million in video poker franchise fees. Acadia Parish made $1.7 million, and St. Martin Parish received $3.5 million in video poker franchise fees.
Naquin says he wanted to bring up the gaming issue years ago, but he says he didn't have the support of the previous administration or of the full city-parish council. He says right now is the perfect time to discuss bringing gaming back to Lafayette Parish.
"What has changed in the world?" Naquin asked. "Now you have people selling CBD. Sports betting was approved statewide. You can gamble on your phone. You have people pushing for legalized marijuana. If we're going to look at all of those things, we aren't we revisiting the money we're losing in this parish."
Naquin says the parish shouldn't limit itself to considering only video poker. He says a casino on or near the Vermilion River would bring new jobs and economic development to the region. He also say a casino near the river could help bring another development to life."
"Can you imagine if it passes what it could do for the Trappey's development?" Naquin asked, referring to the old Trappey's cannery that's slated for redevelopment.
According to Naquin, the local mayors he's spoken to are on board with the project. One of them, Duson mayor Johnny Thibodeaux, told the Daily Advertiser in 2018 that his municipality would be "insolvent" if it weren't for the video poker machines located in the Acadia Parish portion of the town.
"I talked to all the mayors when I thought about putting this up for discussion, and Mayor Johnny said I'd love for them to have the capability to make the revenue," Naquin said. "If the City of Lafayette doesn't want it, I'd like to have the rest of the parish vote, but they'd be missing out on the money."
Naquin suggests lumping all three items in one ballot proposition instead of putting them on the ballot as three separate items.
"I believe if we let the people vote on all three, it's better," Naquin said. "Instead of giving options, you would have to vote 'yes' for all three at once. If you vote 'no,' then nothing happens."
We asked you what you thought about the possibility of video poker returning to Lafayette Parish. Here are some of the responses we received.