Louisiana Casinos are Thriving Post Pandemic and Severe 2020 Hurricane Season

Harrah’s Casino, New Orleans” by vxla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s the end of the world as we know it. If you’ve had the words of the great Michael Stipe echoing around your brain for the past few months, you’re not alone. The chaos caused by pandemic has been closely followed by one of the most severe hurricane seasons in memory, and they combined to give an almost apocalyptic feel to 2020.

Its good to be back

However, as we reach the mid-point of 2021, there is cause for optimism, at least in certain circles. While most industries have been battening down the hatches – both figuratively and literally – to survive, Louisiana’s casinos have shown impressive financial performance in these uncertain times.

A tough start to 2021

At the end of the first quarter, it looked like being a very different story. During the first three months of the year, casinos were still operating under severe restrictions, and even when these were lifted, facilities needed time to retrieve gaming machines and tables from storage and return their facility floors to some semblance of normality.

Business was also affected by unusually harsh weather conditions sweeping across the state in February. Most of the riverboat casinos were forced to close their doors, and even those that remained open saw drastically reduced footfalls, as gamblers chose to stay at home rather than indulge their appetite for risk on the treacherous roads.

Summer optimism

Yet March proved to be the turning point, and as the casinos got their facilities back in order and the weather started to improve, so the budding James Bonds and Tessa Oceans returned to the gaming tables. By April, it was starting to look like old times. Figures published by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board show that the state’s casinos and racinos generated $235.8 million in the calendar month, an increase of almost five percent on March and more than 50 precent higher than the $151 million generated in February.

The news was greeted positively across the industry. Dave Church from NoDepositHero comments: “With the pandemic affecting the economy and terrible weather on top of that, it’s good to finally see Louisiana streets and casino hotspots brimming with people once again.”

Louisiana’s single land-based casino showed the greatest improvement. Harrah’s in New Orleans saw turnover increase by more than 11 percent on the previous month to top $25 million in April. Results from the riverboat casinos were more of a mixed bag.

L’Auberge in Baton Rouge had a wonderful month, with turnover increasing from $15 million in March to $18 million in April, and its sister facility in Lake Charles also had a good month. Likewise, Boomtown in New Orleans earned $12.9 million, an improvement of 4.5 percent on the previous month. However, Treasure Chest in New Orleans and Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge both saw a sight fall in revenue compared with March performance.

Changing times

Back in May 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional and struck the Act down. While PASPA itself relates specifically to sports betting, it inevitably brought the whole topic of gambling under the spotlight, and led practically every state to contemplate legislative reform.

So far, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have legalized online casino gaming, and Michigan is expected to follow before the end of the year. In Louisiana, lawmakers have been debating a bill to legalize online sports betting, and while that seems certain to become a reality within the next year or so, the likelihood of online casino gaming being introduced any time soon remains remote.

The complication stems from the state’s fantasy sports law, which was introduced in 2018. This gives each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes the power to vote on whether to permit fantasy sports or not. On that occasion, 17 states voted against, presenting a nightmare for providers like DraftKings, who must prove that their software is not accessible to residents of those specific parishes. Fantasy sport is a very small component of the overall gambling industry, so as things stand, expanding into the world of casino gaming is clearly a long way away.

A unique casino scene

The lack of progress is frustrating for those who would like the option to place a bet from their phone or laptop, but it is allowing Louisiana’s unique casino scene to thrive. In many parts of the world, gamblers resorted to web-based alternatives during the closures, and inevitably, some have shown no appetite to return to land-based casinos when they reopened.

That’s one thing Louisiana’s operators don’t have to worry about, and the state could even see a new casino in Slidell after the senate approved House Bill 702 last week. That decision will now be passed for a public referendum in St. Tammany Parish, which is expected to take place in October of this year.

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