Land in Sight for Louisiana Riverboat Casinos as State Senate Passes ‘River to Shore’ Bill

Posted on: April 25, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: April 25, 2018, 02:54h.

On Tuesday, the very day that the Horseshoe Southern Indiana was granted permission by the Indiana Gaming Commission to move its operations onto dry land, hundreds of miles south the Louisiana Senate was approving a bill that would also propel its own riverboat casinos onto terra firma.

Louisiana riverboat casinos
State Senator Ronnie Johns believes Louisiana riverboat casinos should be allowed to come onto dry land after 25 years in the drink. He wants to modernize the state’s casino industry so it can compete with its neighbors. (Image: Sarah Camard/Gambit Weekly)

The Louisiana Senate voted 22-14 to pass State Senator Ronnie Johns’ (R-Lake Charles) SB316, which would allow the state’s 15 riverboat casinos to make the evolutionary leap, provided all gambling activities are conducted within 1,200 feet of their licensed berths.

Johns’ bill would also remove a quirky statute from Louisiana gamble law that requires each facility to have an operational paddle wheel.

Horseshoe Gets Lucky

Indiana passed a similar bill in 2015, and not a moment too soon for the Horseshoe which has been shut down on at least five occasions due to the flooding of the Ohio river where it has been permanently docked since its establishment in 1998. The most recent closure was in February, at great cost to the state.

The Indiana regulator on Tuesday approved a $85 million land-based facility – or should that be “above-land-based facility,” because the Caesars-owned casino will be slightly elevated to negate the risk of flooding.

“This project further demonstrates our continued enthusiasm for and commitment to the state,” said Brad Siegel, senior vice president at the Horseshoe. “We appreciate the Commission’s decision today and look forward to continuing our positive working relationships at the State and local level.”

Expansion or Evolution?

Much of the debate in Louisiana, meanwhile, was whether Johns’ bill constituted gambling expansion, since it proposes reworking the existing the cap on casino floor space. The current limit of 30,000 square feet would be replaced by a cap on gambling positions – or the amount of seats in front of slots – at 2,365.

Johns said his bill would modernize the state’s creaking casino sector, allowing it to incorporate bigger slots with the latest cutting-edge technology, which will help it to deflect competition from the casinos of Oklahoma and Mississippi.

State Senator Danny Martiny (R-Dist. 10) agreed, and berated fellow senators who thought otherwise.

We’ve got an industry that’s providing us with income, thank God,” Martiny said. “Everybody that’s against it, sure doesn’t shy away from coming to Appropriations and asking for some of that money.

“Go back in your office,” he suggested, “get online and you can gamble all you want, and you know how much Louisiana gets out of it? Nothing!”

Johns’ bill now heads to the House.