There’s an argument that Louisiana missed the boat, so to speak, when it let riverboat casinos come to town.
First, the state tried to force these casinos to sail, which served no obvious public purpose other than protecting the only land-based casino’s monopoly, and arguably put these establishments at a competitive disadvantage to their landlocked peers in Mississippi. Eventually reality set in, and the riverboats became what they were always destined to be, dockside but stationary businesses. Now, another change is likely in the offing, assuming Gov. John Bel Edwards signs a bill to allow the casinos to relocate on dry land.
The birth of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino was even more fraught; before things stabilized, the company shut down its temporary casino and stopped construction on the permanent building until it forced the state to renegotiate its terms.
But at this point, Harrah's has settled into good corporate citizen territory, so much so that its bid to extend its agreement has had no trouble earning legislative support. The big fight is only over whether the terms are favorable enough to the city and state.
Bottom line: Some specifics remain up for negotiation, but more than two decades after big-time gambling came to Louisiana, the state has made its peace with the industry.
And that makes the Legislature’s failure to approve sports betting here pretty short-sighted. State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, pushed a bill to get this new type of gambling on the books, anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court might decide that states should have the option. The Legislature didn’t act, but this week, the high court did.
And Mississippi, which did approve sports betting, once again has a head start. It’s expected to be in business in two months or less.
“Not only are we not going to get anything out of it, we’re going to lose money,” Martiny said after the court ruled.
He’s got a point. He’s also got history on his side.