Belle of Baton Rouge

Patrons wait in line to enter Belle of Baton Rouge Casino, which opened at noon May 18 for the first time since shutting down in March due to the spread of coronavirus. Gaming industry officials said that Monday’s re-opening of some riverboat casinos and video poker truck stops was “a really good start.”

Gambling industry officials said that Monday’s reopening of some riverboat casinos and video poker truck stops was “a really good start.”

Ronnie Jones, head of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said officials at Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Horseshoe Bossier City and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Bossier City reported crowds that “felt like a Friday instead of a Monday.”

“It was a pretty good day for us,” Jones said during a meeting of the Resilient Louisiana Commission’s Gaming Task Force Tuesday. “We got off to a really good start.” According to reports from Jones and other members of the commission, most of the guests wore masks.

The casinos and truck stops had been closed since mid-March as a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards' stay-at-home order to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Properties were allowed to reopen Monday, after first getting approval from Louisiana State Police. The properties are limited to 25% of occupancy and can operate half of their slot machines, video poker machines and table game positions. 

Barron Fuller, senior vice president for Eldorado Resorts, which operates the Belle of Baton Rouge, Isle of Capri Lake Charles and Eldorado Shreveport, said there were lines at all three casinos when they opened at noon Monday. There was a challenge early on with getting security staff used to the new protocols for admitting guests, which include temperature checks. “But an hour into that, we learned how to expedite the procedures,” he said.

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Amid coronavirus recovery, Louisiana's casinos reopen with sanitizer, temperature checks

Stan Guidoz, vice president of southern operations for Jacobs Entertainment, which has 23 Cash Magic video poker truck stops across the state, said volume was strong Monday, with waiting lines of customers at several properties. “I’m not aware of any truck stops that decided not to open,” he said.

Vincent Schwartz, senior vice president with Boyd Gaming, told other task force members hearing reports about their openings made him “a little jealous about being late to the party.” Boyd is set to reopen its Delta Downs Racetrack Casino in Vinton, Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino in Opelousas and Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner on Wednesday. Next week it will reopen the Amelia Belle Casino in Amelia and Sam’s Town Shreveport.

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Of the casinos opening Wednesday, Schwartz said they are ready to go. “We probably could have opened them sooner, but we wanted to lay it out and make sure we had all the I’s dotted and the t’s crossed,” he said.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.