Hurricane Ida Hits New Orleans Casinos Hard, September Revenue Down 21 Percent

Posted on: October 26, 2021, 08:26h. 

Last updated on: October 26, 2021, 11:45h.

Hurricane Ida is the fourth-costliest US Atlantic weather system on record. The devastating Category 4 cyclone caused an estimated $65 billion in damages and also ravaged New Orleans casinos.

New Orleans Hurricane Ida Louisiana casino revenue
The French Quarter in New Orleans is seen in late August 2021 during Hurricane Ida. The Louisiana city largely held off the Category 4 storm, but its casinos nonetheless suffered. (Image: Getty)

Numbers from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) released today show that the four gaming properties in the New Orleans region won 21.4 percent fewer gaming dollars from customers in September 2021 than they did in the same month in 2020.

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) from Harrah’s New Orleans, the three riverboats — Amelia Belle, Boomtown, and Treasure Chest — and slots at the Fair Grounds totaled $26.5 million. That’s $7.2 million lower than September 2020.

However, the Gulf Coast losses were more than made up for at riverboats and racinos elsewhere across the state. With GGR from the 10 other riverboats and three racetrack slot venues factored in, Louisiana gaming revenue totaled $159.7 million last month. That’s a nearly 28 percent year-over-year gain.

Hurricane Levies Casino Depression

Hurricane Ida, which formed on August 26 and made landfall in Louisiana two days later, was cited for the year-over-year GGR downfall in New Orleans. The hurricane was directly responsible for 12 deaths in Louisiana.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency ahead of Ida reaching landfall on August 27. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell subsequently issued a mandatory citywide evacuation that same day.

Edwards said Ida would be the first true test of the New Orleans levee system since the state and federal government invested billions of dollars repairing and improving the flood prevention system. That was done in response to its 2005 failure during Hurricane Katrina. Though power outages were widespread, New Orleans’ levees passed Ida’s test.

While catastrophe was largely averted, levee and hurricane experts say the region shouldn’t embrace a sense of storm immunity moving forward.

It does not mean that the lesson of Hurricane Ida is that metropolitan New Orleans has adequate hurricane protection. It means it had adequate protection against this storm surge,” said Andy Horowitz, a history professor at Tulane University and author of “Katrina: A History, 1915-2015.” “As the system is challenged by stronger and more frequent hurricanes, I think many experts are very concerned about the rather low level of protection that New Orleans has.”

Ida forced the temporary closure of Harrah’s New Orleans, the state’s lone land-based commercial casino. The downtown Big Easy casino shuttered on Saturday, August 28, and remained dark until Wednesday, September 8. GGR at the Caesars property totaled just $8 million as a result.

Lake Charles Rebound

September’s GGR statewide increase can be largely credited to the two operational riverboats and lone slot racino in Lake Charles.

Lake Charles was reeling from Hurricane Laura in September last year, with the three gaming venues being closed for as much as half of the month.

Golden Nugget, L’Auberge, and Delta Downs combined to win $59.3 million in September 2021. That’s a 181 percent year-over-year jump from the $21.8 million the floors won during the hurricane-stricken September 2020.

Louisiana’s three other gaming markets — Baton Rouge, Shreveport-Bossier, and Opelousas — all reported year-over-year GGR increases.