Louisiana casinos began the first phase of reopening this week following Governor John Bel Edwards prior announcement saw the state move into ‘Phase One’ under the White House COVID-19 guidance.
Businesses around the state have opened their doors with a 25 per cent occupancy limit, sanitation guidelines and spacing for physical distancing. Under the guidelines, casinos and video poker establishments with racetracks will not be open to spectators.
Following the announcement, the American Gaming Association has released its new Casinos & Communities: Louisiana report which, completed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, highlights how critical casino gaming is to the state’s economy and how important the activity will be to the state’s economic return.
The report provides a comprehensive overview of how gaming has impacted the state, pairing key data with first-hand accounts from business owners, elected officials and nonprofit leaders of gaming’s community impact of the Bayou State.
Annually, Louisiana’s 25 commercial and tribal casinos, according to the report, have a $6.1bn economic impact on the state – generating $1.5bn in state and local taxes and supporting $1.7bn in wages for nearly 41,000 jobs.
The AGA estimated that a two-month shutdown of the Louisiana gaming industry would result in a loss of more than $1bn in economic activity to the state.
Kyle Edmiston, president and CEO of Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, said: “The casinos have been excellent partners in the community in every aspect of quality of life for citizens, of nonprofits, of business development, and they have stood, ready and willing to listen and help wherever they saw the need.”
Eldorado Resorts is one casino operator to have officially resumed operations in the region, doing so at its Isle of Capri Lake Charles, Belle of Baton Rouge and Eldorado Shreveport properties yesterday (Monday 18 May), implementing the aforementioned guidelines.
“As we resume operations at our properties, the health and safety of our team members and guests is our number one priority,” stated Anthony Carano, president and chief operating officer of Eldorado Resorts.
“We have been working very hard over the last two months to prepare for the reopening of our casinos and we look forward to providing the outstanding service and hospitality experiences Eldorado is known for in a safe manner.”
In 1991, Louisiana became the first state to approve riverboat gaming when it authorised 15 riverboat casinos and began operating two years later in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, New Orleans and Shreveport-Bossier City. According to the AGA report, casinos have since been a key driver for the state’s economy.
“A big part of that is gaming taxes coming in to pick up the slack where we’re not putting that burden on the backs of taxpayers,” according to State Senator Ronnie Johns.
The report goes on to state the importance of gaming benefiting local education with Sowela Community College recently launching a new $10m facility dedicated to ‘hospitality, gaming and culinary training.’
“The [benefits] package that the four properties offer is quite extensive and has made life much better. From medical, vacation, and a pure benefit standpoint, they have raised the bar, and other businesses have had to come along and raise their benefits package in order to keep and maintain that same level of workforce,” said Edmiston.
The AGA report concluded by addressing the value that the state gaming industry has had in aiding the community, highlighting its efforts during Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.
“It would be very easy to fold and cave with trauma like that,” recalled New Orleans Council member Jay H. Banks. “But we had a lot of people in a lot of different venues that said, ‘we need to do what we need to do to get this city back up and running,’ and Harrah’s was there.”
Christy Dirks, president of Limousine Livery, echoed Banks sentiment: “I’m not saying Harrah’s rebuilt New Orleans, but it was like that little beacon of light when a lot of businesses were kind of like, I don’t know if it’s possible.”