Louisiana Riverboats Won’t Be Coming Ashore This Year

Illustrated map of Louisiana

There’s a long wait for Louisiana casino riverboats to come ashore, despite a recent relaxed ruling that now allows applications for the move. There are currently 15 riverboat casinos in Louisiana with more than 21,000 gambling seats combined.

What are Louisiana riverboats?

In May, we reported that Riverboat casinos can now move ashore and offer more space for gaming, thanks to the Governor of Louisiana signing a bill into law that legalizes the move.

The riverboat gaming facilities can now move as far as 1,200 feet from their berths to offer services on land rather than over water.

The history of the riverboats goes back to 1992, when the boats were required to be sailing while gambling was taking place. Now they simply have to make sure that the floor is kept over the water.

Since Senate Bill SB316 was passed, current limits of 30,000 square feet of gambling space per boat will be replaced with a cap of 2,365 gaming positions. This is defined as the space needed to be used either at a table game or seat for a slot machine. Regulations are currently being developed to determine how the number of positions is counted.

At the moment, the riverboat casinos are looking into pricing plans to move onshore as well as how they are going to raise the money to finance their projects. However, the state’s top gaming regulator, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB), says that these will take some time to put into place.

What’s the holdup?

Speaking to GamblingCompliance, LCGB Chairman Ronnie Jones said that his goal is to have everything in place by the end of the year.

Although not every casino in Louisiana is expected to make the move onto land, Jones said three of the most talked about facilities are Belle of Baton Rouge, Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, and Treasure Chest Casino in Keener.

However, the Control Board is currently hung up on the decisions regarding space. The main problem is how state gaming regulators will define how the 1,200-foot requirement from the water is to be measured. Many are unsure if the regulation means including the riverboat in the calculations or if there just has to be one part inside. This could affect the proximity to towns and utility services, additional costs that the riverboat owners will have to factor into a move.

In the past, the LGCB has required significant investments to be made when it comes to gambling facilities with amenities included, which will push the amount needed to create acceptable onshore facilities into the nine-figure range.

A money-maker

Still, the riverboats are huge money-makers for Louisiana and the governor hopes that continues once they’re on shore.

In May, Belle of Baton Rouge took in almost $5m (£3.78m) in total gross gaming revenue (GGR), while Treasure Chest Casino generated $10m (£7.57m) and Isle of Capri $8.6m (£6.5m), according to the LGCB.

In total, the state’s 15 riverboats posted $157.04m (£118.87m) in revenue for May, although this was down from $164.37m (£124.42m) in the same month last year. Still, it’s clear there is a profit to be made in Louisiana, once the state can agree on how to get the riverboats back onshore.

As to whether they will be coming any time soon, it seems not. “This is going to take a lot longer than people think,” said Paul West, a gaming attorney with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz in Baton Rouge.

“Absolutely no casino is making the jump this year. There is still too much left to be done,” he said.

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