Louisiana Regulators Allows Casinos 6% More Gaming Machines

L'Auberge Baton Rouge Casino

The L’Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge is one of four casinos being given a 6% increase in slot machines.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board agreed to allow four casinos to add 6% more gambling machines to their gaming space after a decision on Thursday. The new rule states that the four operators can add up to 6% more “gaming positions”, which is taken to mean slot machines.

L’Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Harrah’s New Orleans, and L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles (Du Lac) are the four casinos which can expand their slots row. The four casinos combined to generate $151 million of the tax revenues for the state last year, which represents about half of all gaming taxes in Louisiana.

For the expanded gambling, Louisiana will receive 21.5% of the revenues generated.

The current law allows the four land-based casinos to have roughly the same number of gaming machines as the traditional riverboat casinos. The LGCB believes the allotment is the fairest and most efficient way to generate new tax revenues.

Ronnie Jones on New Gaming Machine Law

Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Lousiana Gaming Control Board, said the purpose of the gaming machine expansion is to encourage reinvestment of gaming revenues into existing properties. Louisiana has 15 riverboat casinos, but four of them have the right to be “waterfront” casinos built on land.

All the casinos in the state have asked at one time or the other for the right to move inland, where the operations would have more room for expansion of attractions and amenities. The old law limited the number of gambling machines to the square footage of a riverboat casino.

With subsequent changes to the riverboat casino law, the LGCB’s decision brings the gaming machine allotment more in line with new capacity. Ronnie Jones said, “The purpose of the new law is to promote and encourage reinvestment in the existing properties.”

Louisiana Gambling Expansion Opponets

The laws were adopted in spite of protests about the expansion of gambling in the state. Louisiana’s casino industry creates more jobs and tax revenues than the oil and gas industries, which are taxed at the lowest rate of any state in the Union.

One reason lawmakers were willing to expand gambling is the amount of tourist dollars the riverboat casinos bring in. Lake Charles’ casinos are 2 and 1/2 hour drive from Houston, where most of its biggest patrons arrive from. The Shreveport/Bossier City casinos draw customers from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is about 3 hours away.

New Orleans casinos, of course, draw interest from the many tourists who came to see the French Quarter or otherwise visit the city for annual festivals, like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the quasi-religious Mardi Gras celebrations.

Riverboat Casinos in Name Only

The newest casinos only technically follow the riverboat casino laws. The old riverboat casino laws required “gambling floors to sit over water on a navigable waterway,” but new casinos can be built on land over an artificially construction near a waterway.

For instance, the $700 million Golden Nugget Lake Charles was opened in 2014 in a shopping mall, but “included a covered ditch dug from Bayou Contraband to where the gambling floor is located in the middle of a shopping and restaurant area.”

Why Land-Based Casinos Are Better

Building inland allows for bigger constructions, because eveything does not have to be built on a boat. While the hotels and conventions centers which do not have to be built on the rivers could be as large as needed, proximity to the casino and limitations of space on the waterfront often meant the other facilities were limited.