Louisiana Casinos Reopen Monday, But DiamondJacks Shutters Permanently Because Of COVID-19

Posted on: May 18, 2020, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: May 18, 2020, 08:30h.

Louisiana’s casinos will be able to reopen on Monday, but one Bossier City venue will keep its doors shut for good.

DiamondJacks closed
While casinos in Louisiana can reopen as early as Monday, management at DiamondJacks announced late last week the Bossier City riverboat casino would stay closed for good. (Image: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau)

DiamondJacks Casino and Hotel announced on Friday that it would permanently close “due to business circumstances” brought forth by the coronavirus. The news came nearly two months to the day that the casino – along with others in Louisiana – closed in response to Gov. John Bel Edwards COVID-19 emergency order.

In a statement, DiamondJacks Vice President of Finance Diana Thornton said it was still a difficult call to make.

We have worked diligently to be a valued member of the Shreveport-Bossier City business community,” she said. “We are saddened for the loss of a longtime business here in Louisiana.”

The news release did not state how many workers would be affected by the decision. However, all workers were notified and are immediately eligible to apply for unemployment.

Records from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) indicate Peninsula Pacific Entertainment owns the casino. The company also owns the del Lago Casino in upstate New York, and owns a 50 percent stake in the Hard Rock Sioux City Casino in Iowa.

Company officials said they plan to maintain the property through the closure process. However, there are currently no plans for either new ownership or a new investor to reopen the facility.

DiamondJacks is at least the second US casino to announce its permanent closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced all US tribal and commercial casinos to shut down as governments sought to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Lakeside Inn in Nevada announced its closure last month.

Small Boat in Crowded Market

While the Shreveport-Bossier City region has a population of less than 450,000, it’s a major gaming market. The northwestern Louisiana community is less than 20 miles from the Texas state line and less than 200 miles from the Dallas metroplex.

DiamondJacks was one of six riverboat casinos in the area, which also includes slots at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. Among the six riverboats, DiamondJacks was by far the smallest of the six, based on revenue and attendance figures from the LGCB.

Through March 16, the casino posted adjusted gross revenues of $25.8 million for the 2020 fiscal year. Only one of the 14 other riverboat casinos in the state produced smaller figures. The admissions figure of 412,715 ranked third-smallest among the state’s riverboats.

DiamondJacks’ decision to close comes a year after a study by Spectrum Gaming Group. That  recommended state officials allow or encourage the relocation of two casinos from the “declining” Shreveport-Bossier City market to the state’s northeastern corner and the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The study cited the rise in Oklahoma’s tribal casinos, which has siphoned some of the Texas business from the Shreveport-Bossier City casinos. It also noted the other two regions were underserved from a gaming perspective, leading to some in-state gamblers going to Mississippi. While it did not recommend moving DiamondJacks to the northeast, the consulting firm said a northeast casino could generate nearly $22 million more in gross gaming revenue and $4.7 million more in state gaming taxes than what DiamondJacks produced in 2018.

Louisiana Casino Reopening Limitations

Last Thursday, Edwards laid out the restrictions casinos must abide by if they wish to reopen during the state’s Phase One period of its COVID-19 recovery plan.

Casinos will be limited to 25 percent occupancy for the time being, and half of their slot machines or table game seats. The games must be spaced appropriately to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Casinos must also have their reopening plans approved by the LGCB.

Through Sunday, the American Gaming Association reported that 55 of the country 989 tribal and commercial casinos have reopened.

CLARIFICATION (May 18, 9:45 am) – This story has been updated to clarify Spectrum Gaming Group’s recommendations to state officials regarding the possible reallocation of licenses. While the consultants did not specifically state relocating DiamondJacks, it provided officials with an estimated economic impact of moving DiamondJacks to the northeast.