The four casinos that account for about half of Louisiana’s take can soon add more gambling machines under rules approved by a state board Thursday.
Once they clear a handful of administrative hurdles, such as public comment, the new regulations should go into effect in a few months. The procedures are aimed at allowing upgrades for recently built Las Vegas-style casino resorts that only technically followed the old riverboat law requiring gambling floors to sit over water on a navigable waterway.
For instance, the gambling area for L’Auberge Casino & Hotel complex in Baton Rouge, which opened in September 2012, hangs over a Mississippi River levee and has about 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games. Under the new rules the casino could add up to 6 percent more "gaming positions" – another 93 devices or tables – if the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approves.
Ronnie Jones, who chairs the board, said Thursday the proposals would better align the four casino resorts with state laws passed earlier this year.
The laws allowed Louisiana riverboat casinos to move their gambling operations onshore and provided for more floor space on which the slot machines, dice tables and other games can take place. The old law limited gambling to a floor space of specific square footage on riverboats over water.
The laws were approved over vehement opposition that claimed gambling was further expanding. The industry already accounts for more jobs and tax revenues in Louisiana than oil and gas businesses.
“The purpose of the new law is to promote and encourage reinvestment in the existing properties,” Jones said after the board’s Thursday morning hearing.
The Las Vegas-style casino resorts already have spent millions but were limited in the number gambling positions by the old riverboat law. The Golden Nugget Lake Charles, which includes a golf course, spent a reported $700 million in 2014 construction that included a covered ditch dug from Bayou Contraband to where the gambling floor is located in the middle of a shopping and restaurant area.
These regulations will allow the four casinos to be on par, as far as the number of "gaming positions," with the 11 other riverboats, many of which are making plans to move their gambling operations onshore into new, larger facilities.
Jones pointed to financial reports and noted that the four Las Vegas-style casino resorts accounted for a little over half of the $151.4 million revenues the state’s 15 riverboat casinos collected in November alone. State government can expect to collect about 21.5 percent of that amount in taxes.