Fair Grounds' Slot Plan Goes to Court - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

As reported by the Times-Picayune: "Over the objections of the Fair Grounds' new owners and against the advice of the city's top attorney, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to ask a court to rule on whether installing hundreds of slot machines at the Gentilly Boulevard racetrack would be legal.

"The council passed a resolution directing City Attorney Sherry Landry to file a lawsuit seeking a 'declaratory judgment' on whether installing the slots would violate a provision in the City Charter that says 'no more than one land-based gambling casino shall be permitted' in the city, and that the one permitted casino can be only at the Canal Street site occupied by Harrah's New Orleans Casino.

"The council's move is likely to please Fair Grounds neighbors worried that adding the slots would mean more crime, bright lights, traffic and noise in their neighborhoods. Churchill Downs Inc., which bought the historic track six months ago, wants to keep the gambling devices open well into the night, possibly 24 hours a day.

"???Getting slots at the Fair Grounds is a priority for Churchill Downs, perhaps the nation's best-known horse racing company. Referendums to allow slots at its tracks in California and Florida have failed, meaning that, for now, New Orleans is the Kentucky company's only shot at achieving its goal of developing a racetrack casino.

"Spokeswoman Julie Koenig Loignon said the company was puzzled by the council's action, which was not on the agenda for Thursday's meeting.

"???The council's resolution says a review of the debate of the 1992 meeting at which the council called an election on the charter change authorizing 'no more than one land-based gambling casino' suggested the provision would bar the Fair Grounds slot machines???"

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