Harrah’s New Orleans Wins 30-Year Extension, Casino to Invest $325M in Upgrades

Posted on: May 29, 2019, 07:18h. 

Last updated on: May 29, 2019, 07:18h.

Harrah’s New Orleans, the state’s only land-based casino, has been granted a 30-year license extension by Louisiana lawmakers in exchange for $325 million in property upgrades.

Harrah's New Orleans casino license
Harrah’s New Orleans will remain a fixture in the city for at least another 30 years. (Image: Harrah’s New Orleans)

Following approval in the state House, legislation that will extend the casino’s operating license until 2054 was approved by the Senate with a 27-10 vote on Tuesday. The bill now goes to Governor John Bel Edwards (D) who says he will sign the measure.

House Bill 544 – the bill being sent to the governor’s desk – will not allow Harrah’s to expand its 125,000-square-foot casino floor. Parent company Caesars Entertainment will instead be required to build a new 340-room hotel tower with restaurants and entertainment space, which is expected to create 600 construction jobs and 500 subsequent permanent positions.

Costly License

Along with the hotel and various upgrades throughout the Big Easy casino, Harrah’s will be on the hook to pay tens of millions of additional tax dollars over the 30-year period to both the state and the city. New Orleans actually owns the resort casino, and leases its operations to Caesars.

Harrah’s wants to make significant economic development in New Orleans for non-gaming activities,” Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco) Smith said in the chamber on Tuesday.

The city of New Orleans will receive $19.5 million in one-time tax money from Harrah’s, which is due over the next three years. Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) hasn’t decided how the funds will be used.

HB544 will also require Harrah’s to send the state $3.4 million each year for the license extension. Lawmakers will divert much of the money to cancer research, as well as to support problem gambling programs, water projects, and early childhood education.

The state is additionally guaranteed $60 million a year in tax revenue.

Sports Betting Strikeout

Louisiana lawmakers signed off on extending Harrah’s operating license, but are far less enthused regarding sports betting.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 14-6 against a proposal to legalize sports betting at the state’s 16 casinos and four parimutuel racetracks. But various lawmakers added in an assortment of amendments to the legislation that ultimately made the final bill an unpopular piece of regulatory mandates.

The video poker industry successfully persuaded lawmakers to require that if sports betting is approved, the 2,800 truck stops in the state that offer gaming terminals be permitted to operate sports betting kiosks. Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) said there isn’t adequate support for sports betting in Louisiana this year.

I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed,” Martiny told reporters. “I’m just trying to allow our casinos to compete on an even playing field with Mississippi.”

Since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting that prohibited the activity everywhere except Nevada, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Mississippi – have sports betting up and running.

Sports betting laws have also been passed in neighboring Arkansas and Tennessee, and the first legal wagers in those states will commence soon.