It’s land ahoy for Louisiana’s riverboat casinos, after lawmakers in the Pelican State voted to approve a bill that will allow the floating casinos to crawl out of the water.

The House voted 54-41 Tuesday to send State Senator Ronnie Johns’ (R-Lake Charles) SB316 to the governor’s desk.

Louisiana riverboat

Louisiana’s river boat casinos may be coming ashore, but its lawmakers are not on board with sports betting, prompting Senator Danny Martiny to claim the state was now the laughing stock of the country. (Robin May/The Independent)

Johns’ bill will also remove the 30,000-square-feet cap on casino floor space, replacing it with a limit of 2,365 gambling positions: literally, the seats in front of slots. The casinos must restrict all gambling activities to within 1,200 feet of their licensed berths.

A statute that requires each facility to have an operational paddle wheel will also be jettisoned, along with the paddle wheels themselves, which serve no purpose, since the floating casinos are permanently docked.

Johns had argued his bill would modernize the state’s casino sector, allowing it to host bigger, more cutting-edge slots, which will help it to compete with the casinos of Oklahoma and Mississippi.

Martiny Rebukes Colleagues

However, they will not be offering sports betting – at least not yet. Senator Danny Martiny’s sports betting bill was rejected by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, handing the advantage back to Mississippi, which passed its own sports betting bill last year. Mississippi and its casinos hope to roll out newly legal sports books as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, one day after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, Martiny (R-Metairie) berated his colleagues for rejecting his bill — and the governor for refusing to include the issue in a special session next week.

Louisiana was “the laughing stock of the country,” claimed Martiny.

Advantage Mississippi

“Even Mississippi’s way ahead on this. So, in our quest to be Number 50 in everything, here’s another one,” complained Martiny. “We can’t fund our necessary services in this state, but we’re making sure gaming doesn’t expand.

“I wasn’t surprised. I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” he added. “It’s the only industry that we do everything to thwart their success and they are one of the biggest money generators in the state.”

Martiny vowed that his bill would be back next year.

“Anybody who thinks that killing my bill is going to stop sports betting, you can go right now on your phone or on your computer and place a bet. We’re just not going to get any of the money from it,” he said, branding the situation “a joke.”