Louisiana’s riverboat casinos will be able to move onto nearby land as Governor John Bel Edwards signed on Wednesday a bill authorizing their relocation. The legislative piece was presented to the top official’s desk after surviving the Legislature by a single vote.
Generally speaking, Senate Bill 316 gives riverboat casinos the green light to move up to 1,200 feet onto land from their current berth space. The bill also introduces a change to the maximum allowed gambling space per facility. Currently, the state’s riverboat casinos are allowed to conduct gaming across 30,000 square feet. If they move onto land, they will be able to provide gaming services across 2,365 gaming positions each.
Casino gambling was legalized in Louisiana in 1991. Under the state’s law from that year, casinos were only allowed aboard riverboats. In addition, the vessels were required to sail while casino gambling was taking place. In 2001, the law was relaxed and riverboats were allowed to remain dockside. However, the gaming floor still had to be over water.
There are 15 riverboat casinos sailing across Louisiana at present. The state has just one land-based commercial casino – Harrah’s New Orleans. A bill for the property’s expansion and the extension of its gaming license was discussed in the state Legislature earlier this month, but House and Senate lawmakers failed to reach a final agreement and the plan was scrapped for now.
Six Months Before Application
It is believed that Louisiana’s riverboat casinos will have to wait for at least six months before being able to apply for relocation with the state’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Control Board. The head of the regulatory body, Ronnie Jones, told local media that they have begun looking at the regulations adopted by other states, but it will still be at least two months before they craft the rules that casinos should comply with.
The board will also have to outline the designs of the future land-based facilities, the amenities these would include, and the actual application procedures. The regulatory framework will then have to be heard and approved by the public before being adopted.
Louisiana’s riverboat casinos contributed nearly $420 million in taxes last year. Proponents of their relocation onto land have pointed out that being a major revenue contributor, the facilities need to be modernized and boosted in order to be able to compete with those located in neighboring states and to produce more revenue for the coffers.
On the other hand, opponents of SB 316 have expressed concerns about the rising number of people suffering from gambling addiction and have argued that the legislative piece represented gambling expansion and not just modernization of the state’s casino industry.
Sen. Ronnie Johns was the lawmaker who sponsored the relocation bill. He told local media Wednesday that the bill was an important step but Louisiana was still trailing behind other states, pointing to the fact that there have been multiple states to have been considering the legalization of online gambling and sports betting.