The state of Louisiana passed a law in 1991 that allowed for 15 riverboat casinos to begin operations. The catch was that these floating casinos had to set sail before any gambling could take place. Then, in 2001, the law was amended to allow the riverboat casinos to remain dockside as long as the casino floor was over the water.
Now the Legislature has given the nod to a measure that will give permission to riverboat casinos to operate on land as long as they are within 1,200 feet from their designated berth.
One of three riverboat casinos that want to take their operations onshore is The Belle of Baton Rouge. However, casino operators in Louisiana are concerned about the impact of neighboring Mississippi’s newly-adopted sports betting laws.
Ronnie Jones is the head of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and he recently addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge stating that every casino CEO who spoke with a task force are urging Louisiana to pass a sportsbook bill that didn’t pass through the Legislature earlier this year.
Four casinos in Mississippi began accepting sports bets last week and many think that this will affect casinos in Louisiana. Jones claimed that he has heard people say that they plan on visiting Mississippi casinos over the coming weekend instead of going to local establishments. He went on to say that Louisiana already loses a lot of business to their neighbor and that Mississippi casinos have several advantages over those in Louisiana. One of the biggest advantages that Mississippi casinos have is that players don’t get taxed on comped food and rooms. He refers to Mississippi’s new sportsbooks as a “pile on”.
Offshore Re-location An Option
Louisiana voters will head to the polls in November to vote on local referendums for fantasy sports betting but the issue of sports betting isn’t expected to be addressed until 2019. Jones said the vote on fantasy sports will be a good indicator as to how a vote on legalized sports gambling would go.
As far as the new rules that will allow the riverboat casinos to come ashore, Jones is confident that they will be in place by the end of this year. Regulators are insisting that any re-locations be accompanied by new capital investments but one anonymous operator has inquired about moving its operation ashore without adding conference space or hotel rooms. Such a proposal probably wouldn’t get the approval of the gaming board according to Jones.