Louisiana Casinos Reopen Monday as Bettors Show ‘They’re Ready to Come Back’

Posted on: May 18, 2020, 10:26h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2020, 08:06h.

The first message Ronnie Jones received Monday morning came with good news. The chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board learned a crowd of about 100 people was waiting to enter the Boomtown Casino just outside New Orleans on the first day casino gaming could take place in the state since March 16.

Louisiana casino reopen
Horseshoe Bossier City was one of Louisiana’s casinos that reopened on Monday, the first day in more than two months the state allowed gaming to take place after the COVID-19 crisis forced Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to close the gaming properties. (Image: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau)

Outside the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, there were a couple hundred, he said, and elsewhere dozens stood outside ready to play slots, blackjack, and other games.

“One of my concerns and one of the challenges for the casinos was, are people going to come back? And it certainly appears they’re ready to come back and spend a little time on the casino floor,” Jones told Casino.org Monday afternoon.

More than half of Louisiana’s 19 casinos and racinos reopened on Monday, more than two months after Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered their closure as part of the state’s COVID-19 emergency. Edwards issued a new order last week allowing the properties to reopen, but with a reduced capacity of 25 percent and only half of the gaming seats available.

One casino, DiamondJacks in Bossier City, announced last week it would permanently close, citing the “business circumstances” caused by the coronavirus.

Masks Optional for Customers

Jones said his reports indicated about half of the casino patrons were wearing masks.

The protocols approved by Edwards’ office last week, required masks for casino floor employees, but only recommended them for players.

Before customers can walk onto the gaming floor, they must first sanitize their hands – Jones believes Louisiana is the only commercial state setting that requirement. Casinos will also administer a noninvasive temperature check on patrons and ask them a questionnaire based on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to determine if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

At that point, customers are given the optional mask.

In trying to talk to a couple of casino employees who were concerned about going to work, I told them that the industry has done a remarkable job at reducing as much risk as possible,” Jones told Casino.org. “You can’t reduce every risk in a pandemic like this. But I think they’ve done a remarkable job at screening customers and protecting employees.”

Jones said some Louisiana casinos have ordered plexiglass partitions in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. However, he said Edwards rejected that specific recommendation for the state’s Phase One reopening. That’s because the governor wants to enforce social distancing guidelines requiring people not from the same household to remain at least six feet apart.

Moving forward into new phases with more gaming slots and larger crowd sizes will be dependent on the state keeping COVID-19 cases under control.

“The governor has made every decision in the state based on public health consultations, and they’re the guys who review the data every day,” Jones said. “I would say it will be at least into June before consideration of moving to another phase rolls out.”

New Orleans Stays Dark, Boyd Open Starting Wednesday

Not all casinos were able to open on Monday. While New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell gave the go-ahead to restaurants and gyms to open Monday, she excluded casinos. That will keep Harrah’s New Orleans and Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots dark for now.

Those that did reopen on Monday indicated that things went well on the first day.

While Caesars Entertainment could not open Harrah’s in New Orleans, it was able to open its Horseshoe Bossier City and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs facilities.

“We will continue to emphasize health and safety, consistent with government directives, to create a comfortable work and guest experience environment,” the company said in a statement.

Anthony Carano, president and chief operating officer of Eldorado Resorts, issued a similar statement just before Isle of Capri Lake Charles, Belle of Baton Rouge, and Eldorado Shreveport riverboats reopened Monday at noon CT.

“We have been working very hard over the last two months to prepare for the reopening of our casinos, and we look forward to providing the outstanding service and hospitality experiences Eldorado is known for in a safe manner,” Carano said.

Later this week, Boyd Gaming Corp. will begin reopening its Gulf Coast casinos. Three Louisiana properties, Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel, Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel, and Treasure Chest Casino will resume operations on Wednesday. A day later, the IP Casino Resort Span and Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall will open next door in Mississippi.

Next week, Boyd plans to open two more Louisiana casinos, the Amelia Belle Casino and Sam’s Town Shreveport.