“They expect 5,000 visits a day. How can the Bluebonnet corridor hold 5,000 visits all the way down?”
Today I had a chance to catch up with Kelly Stutes who is spearheading the effort against Pinnacle.
Louisiana Conservative: “Kelly, tell me a little bit about your background, how did you get involved, why are you concerned about Pinnacle?”
Kelly Stutes: “Pinnacle affects me because the location that my husband and I chose to build five and half years ago, no where in the plans were there any talk, any plans, or anything about a casino. I had my first taste of the metro council about a year and a half ago, where I could read things in black and white and things were performing in a blatant manner of what black and white reads and I wanted to make a difference. All of a sudden, this affected my two little boys, a four and two year old, and I wanted to do my part and make sure they had a safe place.
LC: Now there’s some controversy about what Pinnacle does, they want to bring in this big nice resort, they want to bring in a golf course, they want to build this big fancy thing, but that’s not entirely true, why don’t you tell us about that.
KS: “The real proposed plan was the original 35 acres that they purchased at the end of Bluebonnet and Nicholson. Because they couldn’t get approval from the Coast Guard or the Corps of Engineers, because of the way the river has a bend in it, there was too much traffic, too many tugboats and things of that nature having to make big turns with their loads in that bend and a casino, or something blocking that river path wasn’t ideal. So they had to move down a bit and that’s how they ended up purchasing that 565 acres total and the reason they ended up purchasing that was because those who were selling, it was kind of an all or nothing thing. It was X amount of property, this is for sell, it’s all, it’s not going to be broken up into parcels.
“Pinnacle has proposed a master plan just to show the council, to show the gaming control board that they have given it a little bit of thought, and yes they have all this property and they would like to show what they could do with it and they stressed that they could do with it, they also kept it open and said that it was likely that they would sell a big huge portion of that property to a developer and let them come in and develop it.”
LC: “One of the things is that Pinnacle’s property is right next to the proposed interstate loop, how would that benefit or how would that hinder Pinnacle? How is that going to affect all this?”
KS: “I think a loop will certainly benefit Pinnacle by the means of, there’s always been a concern of infrastructure. They expect 5,000 visits a day. How can the Bluebonnet corridor hold 5,000 visits all the way down when you have the Mall of Louisiana, Perkins Rowe, you have all these developments, a question Mike Wampold is concerned about as well. Then you have Nicholson, there’s no direct means to getting to Pinnacle’s proposed site via the interstate, so the loop would take people directly from I-10 from either side of the river, it will take them directly through the proposed location.
LC: “There’s a lot of concern about the drinking and driving and the increased traffic in that area, but isn’t the interstate loop actually going to alleviate that are do you think it’s going to add to it? How’s the interstate loop affecting the property owners down there?”
KS: “I think the loop is a huge concern to property owners down there because it’s a quiet residential area, it’s rural and it was zoned, Dr. Culbertson made extra efforts a few years ago to make the property along river road, to keep it zoned rural by means of one acre per house, things of that nature. There are no commercial development, it’s all residential. There’s some new apartment complexes and town homes going up, but every bit of it that surrounds the proposed site is residential. You have the cyclist who use River road as a training route, and have been using it for twenty years, so I think it’s going to be a big damper.
LC: “What has Pinnacle done in other parts of the state? We hear about their big resort in Lake Charles, what do you know about that?
KS: “The other resorts they have are in Harvey, Bossier City, and Lake Charles. The two that they have in Lake Charles [and Bossier City], all three of them feed off of the surrounding market. Lake Charles, as they will tell you, and they document on their website, 85% to 90% of the incoming revenue that comes into the Lake Charles casinos are from the Texas area. They have a 4.5 million market in the Houston area. When you travel up to Bossier, you have the market feeding off of the Dallas market. So again, it’s 85% to 90% of all incoming revenue is from outsiders. It’s the Texas market.
“Now the Harvey, I think it’s 15 minutes from the French Quarter, they get a few I guess people who are traveling from Biloxi who are trying to get across to the other side of Louisiana, but Harvey is mostly, mostly local business.”
LC: “So we should be looking more towards [their casino in] Harvey as more of an example of what we should expect in Baton Rouge than Lake Charles or Bossier City?”
KS: “Yes, Pinnacle representatives have already acknowledged that the primary market source of income will come from from the market here in Baton Rouge. It’s the same.”
LC: “Let’s go back to July 21, they wanted to be on the July 21st ballot, that was a day that almost nobody went out and and voted. I think we had a 4% turnout, I believe that’s the number, and then they skipped over the October 20 ballot and the November 17th ballot, and want to go on the February 9th ballot, and they said they were going to reimburse us, how feasible is that to your knowledge?”
KS: “To my knowledge, it’s kind of a catch-22, the February 9th ballot is a Presidential primary, ordinarily that is paid in full by he legislation, but should any local governing body place another item on the ballot they frown upon that and the local governing body has to foot the entire bill if they put something on the ballot at the same time. Pinnacle offered that they will reimburse the city parish the $250,000 for the cost, of course we are waiting for and seeking an ethics board aproval. There’s concerns that if Pinnacle reimburse the city the $250,000 that the ethics board might attach a stipulation that if they reimburse city parish, they can not enter into any private contract or negotiations because of… investment… I don’t know how to say it… buying a vote, possibly. But if they rule saying that ‘No they can’t reimburse the city parish’ then the taxpayers are out $250,000 when Pinnacle could have just been easily been on the fall 08 ballot.”
LC: “The other thing that Pinnacle was talking about doing was building the resort but is there anything tying Pinnacle into building that? What’s the stipulation there?”
KS: “There are no ties. There’s nothing that Federally, State, locally, no ordinances, nothing of the kind that states that Pinnacle has to build anything past a Riverboat casino. Anything past a casino, a restaurant, a shopping center, anything that they’ve advertised is just bonus. There’s nothing that holds them to that. There’s a possible exception, if you can get Pinnacle to enter into a private contract with the mayor, that the mayor could possibly have some grounds as far as negotiating things with Pinnacle, but Pinnacle is not going to commit to anything, and there’s still a flaw in the fact because after the election, Pinnacle could easily sell the gaming license to another entity and that entity could come in and where Pinnacle has done all the advertising to tell people there’s going to be this big resort and golf course, they sell the license, new person comes in, a new person doesn’t have to build that either, even with a private contract. If they sign and commit to a private contract, that private contract is null and void should they sell the gaming license. There are no protections for the voters.”
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LC: “When they were trying to get this on the July 21st ballot, what was going on behind the scenes?”
KS: “I would simply say that Pinnacle was trying to put the cart before the horse, by simply acting unconstitutionally. They were requesting a metro council on May 9th of this year, to put before the voters a Parish-wide referendum asking for the expansion of riverboat gaming in the Parish. This is all done before Pinnacle had even gone to seek permission, or request permission, or even fill out an application for permission to appear before the Gaming Control Board to ask whether or not they could move that gaming license that was tied specifically to Lake Charles, if they could move and change the boat site here to Baton Rouge. So you have to get permission from the Gaming Control Board first, then you could go before the council and ask the council to put it before the State Bond Commission to request that this be put on a Parish-wide referendum.
LC: “Tell me about their plans for the golf course, what they’ve said.
KS: “The plans for the golf course, everyone has seen the advertising, where they plan to do the big spa, the big resort, the big golf course, that’s been a huge selling and marketing point for them is the golf course. I’m not a big golf player, but it’s a huge selling point. Dan Lee, he has stated before the Gaming Control Board several times, it’s documented by saying the market has to be able to sustain the expense of the golf course and he said “Quite frankly, the Baton Rouge market just can’t support the extent of the golf course” and he said “we like the idea of golf course the whole watercolor…” water color being a city based in Florida, a city being inside a city, but he also stated that ‘if they decide to develop the property’ if, because they were still holding out, they could still sell it to another developer and let the developer turn it into it. They would not begin the expense of a golf course until they had 90% of the acres, or 90% of the lots of the gated community sold because you have to have the houses to support the luxury golf course and that was not something they were willing to risk yet. Baton Rouge wasn’t worth the risk yet to support it.”
LC: “Kelly you gave us a lot of information, how can somebody verify what you just said?”
KS: “The easiest way to verify any of this is to go to the website yourself. I found the most damaging, most incriminating evidence, things they are so proud to advocate and here, Baton Rouge is just an exception to their whole plan because everything they advocate on their website, what they plan to do in Baton Rouge is the exact opposite. So I would visit Pinnacle’s website. You can search it, search the golf course, look at their plans for all their other casinos that they do and look at the amount of money that they are spending on all the casinos and you will see that 250 million is just not that big of a deal on the grand scheme of things. Also you can verify the minutes of the Gaming Control Board, go to the Gaming Control Board Website. Look over the past agenda, look over the past minutes and and it’s all documented. You can even request the transcripts as well. And I have the DVD of the Gaming Control Board meeting. It’s four DVD’s and four grueling hours and I’ll be glad to make copies for you.”
LC: “If somebody wanted to get copies of that how can somebody get in touch with you?”
KS: “You can email me at kcws34y2k @ yahoo.com [no spaces]
LC: “Thank you so much.”
KS: “Thank you.”