Louisiana Casinos Remain Barred From Making Political Donations

Posted on: May 24, 2024, 02:50h. 

Last updated on: May 24, 2024, 02:50h.

Louisiana casino companies and the key executives who run the gaming firms have been barred from making political donations to state candidates since the state legislature imposed the ban in 1996. The statute will remain in place for the foreseeable future after a state Senator this week rescinded his motion to amend the regulation.

Louisiana casinos politics campaign Edwin Edwards
Edwin Edwards, the Louisiana governor who took bribes from casinos in exchange for riverboat licenses, is pictured in August 2017 celebrating his 90th birthday with his wife, Trina Edwards. An effort to lift a ban on casinos making political donations, a law enacted following the Edwards scandal, failed this week in the Baton Rouge capital. (Image: AP)

State Sen. Thomas Pressly (R-Shreveport) on Monday tacked on a provision to Rep. Mark Wright’s (R-Covington) House Bill 906. The statute seeks to amend the state’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Act to lift caps on campaign contributions to state politicians.

Before the Senate on Thursday voted in favor of HB 906 to send the statute to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk after it previously cleared the House of Representatives, Pressly removed the casino add-on from the bill. The Senator cited backlash for rescinding the amendment.

Casinos Remain on Political Sidelines

Louisiana lawmakers in the early 1990s passed the casino contribution ban after a scandal rocked the state regarding the development of Louisiana’s riverboat gaming industry and the issuance of the first brick-and-mortar casino license that was earmarked for New Orleans.

Then-Gov. Edwin Edwards (D), who served almost 16 years as Louisiana’s governor through four terms, championed the introduction of legal gambling in the Bayou State. But he used the industry’s authorization to his benefit, as he was later convicted of extorting nearly $3 million from entities seeking one of the state’s gaming concessions.

The Louisiana Legislature subsequently passed a law banning casino companies from making political contributions in the state. Pressly thinks the rule is outdated and should be lifted.

I believe [HB 906] is a cleanup bill that’s dealing with allowing a corporation to give contributions that are fully disclosed,” Pressly reasoned earlier this week about the provision. “It would simply put them in line with every other organization and entity in the state and allow them to participate in the political process by giving contributions to us.”

Ronnie Johns, however, the outgoing chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, thinks it’s best to leave the ban as is.

We don’t want to ever live through what we did with the rollout of gaming during the Edwin Edwards administration,” Jones said. “It’s taken us years to get past that and improve our reputation among other gaming states and gaming companies.”

Edwards in 2001 was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being found guilty of racketeering charges. He was released after serving eight. He remained wildly popular with Louisiana Democrats but lost his 2014 congressional bid. Edwards died in 2021 at the age of 93.

Rule Extends to Certain Employees, Spouses

The rule on casino companies being prohibited from donating directly to individual state politicians in Louisiana also extends to certain employees.

The statute states that a casino company’s officers, directors, trustees, partners, and senior management are all banned from making direct contributions to candidates and lawmakers. Spouses of those individuals are additionally excluded from the political environment in the Bayou State.

Pressly acknowledged that his motion to terminate the fundraising condition came at the request of Penn Entertainment. The Pennsylvania-based company operates five riverboat casinos in Louisiana — L’Auberge Lake Charles, Boomtown and Margaritaville in Bossier City, L’Auberge Baton Rouge, and Boomtown Harvey near New Orleans.