Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force

The Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force recommended on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 that state laws be change to allow riverboats to move their casinos on land. Task force members, left to right, are state Sens. Gary Smith, D-Norco, and Ronnie Johns, R-Lakes Charles, along with Ronnie Jones, the chairman of the task force.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

The companies that operate "riverboat" casinos are big winners in this legislative session, with lawmakers approving a bill to allow them to dispense with the longtime fiction that the facilities are creatures of the water.

It was close: The vote was 53-42 for final passage in the House, the minimum number required for passage.

Senate Bill 316 goes to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is expected to sign it.

Two of the state’s 15 floating casinos that are likely to move soonest onto land are the Belle of Baton Rouge in downtown Baton Rouge and the Treasure Chest on Lake Pontchartrain in Kenner. SB316 allows them to move 1,200 feet — equivalent to four football fields — onto land from their “designated berth space.”

One of the lessons of the debate: When a gaming bill is developed through a long-term process of hearings and fact-finding by regulators, even legislators reluctant to "expand" gambling in the state can be persuaded to support it.

Backers of SB316 provided an example of how to build support for a controversial change before going into the hothouse debates of the Legislature.

Our Views: Dated gambling laws are up for game-changing discussions, law changes