Louisiana Riverboats Endure June Swoon as Only One Sees Monthly Revenues Jump from 2018

Posted on: July 20, 2019, 12:58h. 

Last updated on: July 20, 2019, 10:40h.

June was not a lucky month for Louisiana’s riverboat casinos.

The Boomtown Bossier City riverboat casino has struggled recently, like other Louisiana riverboats, to attract patrons. Boomtown saw its adjusted gross revenue decline by more than $2 million in Fiscal Year 2019. (Image Boomtown Bossier City)

Data from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board showed that of the state’s 15 boats, only one of them saw an increase in revenue last month compared to June 2018. That winner was the Margaritaville Casino Resort in Bossier City.

It’s $13.9 million in revenue last month was just $80,181 higher than its June 2018 totals. Still, the .6 percent growth made it the best performer. In all, the riverboats took in $151.7 million in June, that’s down about 10.2 from last year’s take of nearly $169 million.

The steepest declines took place in Baton Rouge, which saw its three casinos decline by more than 13 percent from June 2018. The biggest loss came from the Belle of Baton Rouge. Its $2.3 million for  June 2019 was more than $1.7 million – or 43 percent – off last year’s total.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, it marked the 22nd consecutive month the city’s riverboats endured a year-over-year decline.

Fiscal Year Reports Not Much Better

The fiscal year-end reports do not paint a much better picture for the state. Of the 15, only four saw increases in adjusted gross revenue in Fiscal Year 2019, which ended on June 30. The Golden Nugget Lake Charles took over the top spot among the state’s boats thanks to a $6.5 million, or 2.1 percent, jump from FY2018. With $319.6 million in revenues, it was $8.5 million better than L’Auberge Lake Charles.

Others that saw year-to-year increases were Margaritaville, a 2.8 percent jump to $162.5 million; the Amelia Belle, a 4 percent increase to $44.7 million; and Boomtown New Orleans, a 1 percent jump to $118.1 million.

The state’s other casino gaming venues saw very modest gains. Harrah’s New Orleans, currently the state’s only land-based casino, saw a $3 million, or 1 percent, increase in gross gaming revenue to $291.5 million.

The state’s four racetracks, which offer slots, saw marginal revenue increases at three venues. Delta Downs reported adjusted gross revenues of $184.2 million, just .2 percent better than last year. Evangeline Downs reported a 1.2 percent increase to $83.1 million, and Fair Grounds Race Course’s slots revenue jumped 2.8 percent to $43.7 million. Harrah’s Louisiana Downs was the only decliner among tracks, with its $44.1 million down just $200,000 – or .5 percent – from 2018.

Competition, Tax Rates Hurting Louisiana

In April, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development received a report from Spectrum Gaming Group that analyzed all forms of gambling currently available legally in the state. Since 2008, casino gaming has seen revenues declined by 1.5 percent.

One of the main reasons for the decline has been the increased competition in nearby states. The casinos in the Bossier City and Shreveport areas have been hurt by Oklahoma’s tribal casinos, which are closer to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

Mississippi casinos continue to siphon Louisiana gamblers,” the report stated. “The Mississippi Gaming Commission estimates that in 2018 there were 3.3 million visits by Louisiana residents to the Gulf Coast casinos and 500,000 to the state’s Central Region casinos.”

Mississippi’s casino tax rate is much lower, 11.6 percent, compared to Louisiana’s 26 percent. In addition, Mississippi does not tax free plays. The Spectrum study said the tax discrepancies mean companies owning casinos in both Louisiana and Mississippi are better off investing and marketing their Mississippi venues to Louisiana patrons.

“After all, the same player with the same gaming budget is simply worth more to the casino operator in Mississippi,” it stated.

Last year, the state legislature approved a bill allowing riverboat casinos to move inland. Spectrum anticipates two venues doing just that by 2021.