Commercial Gaming

New Orleans Casinos Strive To Recover From Pandemic, Severe Weather

New Orleans area casinos are trying to regain their economic footing after being hit by a pandemic and severe weather.

Harrah’s hotel-casino in New Orleans, seen here, is among the Crescent City resorts seeking to boost its gaming revenue. A new general manager recently has been named to run the property. (Image: The Advocate)

Boomtown hotel-casino has shown positive results. The property reported revenue in July of $10 million. This figure exceeds the $8.8 million the resort brought in during the same month in 2019, according to the newspaper website nola.com. Boomtown is in Harvey, Louisiana, south of downtown New Orleans, on the opposite side of the Mississippi River.

Overall, from March through August this year, gambling revenue at Boomtown was $35.9 million. The resort brought in $60 million during the same period in 2019, the newspaper reported.

Another suburban hotel-casino, the Treasure Chest in Kenner, Louisiana, reported gambling revenue of $27.5 million for the March-August 2020 period. This compares to $56.3 million for the same time frame in 2019. The riverboat casino is northwest of downtown New Orleans at Lake Pontchartrain.

In New Orleans, Harrah’s hotel-casino reported $40.9 million in gambling revenue from March to August this year. That compares to $144.9 million the previous year.

Devastating Hurricanes

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) ordered casinos closed at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March. He allowed the properties to begin operating again on May 18, with safety guidelines in place. These guidelines include social-distancing requirements and restrictions on capacity.

In recent months, Louisiana has been hit by severe weather, including two powerful hurricanes that made landfall west of New Orleans only six weeks apart. Hurricanes Laura and Delta shredded southwestern Louisiana, requiring the four resorts in the Lake Charles area to close temporarily.

The Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Lake Charles remained closed on Monday.

While the New Orleans-area casinos were not damaged in these powerful storms, some resorts throughout South Louisiana, including the Crescent City, were closed temporarily. Other storms in the area also disrupted tourism throughout the region.

New Harrah’s General Manager

As the casino industry in New Orleans attempts to rebound, Crescent City native Samir Mowad has been named general manager of Harrah’s New Orleans.

His appointment comes as the resort is working with the city on details regarding a $325-million project to build a new hotel tower and upgrade the casino. Harrah’s New Orleans, owned by Nevada-based Caesars Entertainment, is the only land-based hotel-casino in Louisiana.

The new tower would be adjacent to the property’s current 26-story, 450-room tower, according to nola.com.

The construction project is part of a deal last year with city and state officials to extend Caesars Entertainment’s management of the resort for 30 years beyond 2024 when its current lease expires, the website reported. Harrah’s New Orleans is working with city officials on the project’s specifics.

Mowad, who previously worked for Harrah’s New Orleans, has run the Caesars Entertainment businesses in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the past five years. These properties include two casinos, a convention center, and a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

His experience with Caesars Entertainment also includes working in human resources and food and beverage at the company’s hotel-casino in North Kansas City, Missouri, according to his LinkedIn page.

Larry Henry

Gaming Regulation, Crime, Politics — Larry Henry is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who spent more than 16 years in Nevada, including serving as legislative reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and as political editor at the Las Vegas Sun. He's also written about popular culture for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. As a broadcast journalist, he worked as managing editor at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Arkansas, where he now lives and where casino growth is a hot topic. A Marine Corps veteran and LSU graduate, he is also an avid movie fan, especially of classic film noir from the 1940s and ’50s.

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Larry Henry