Governor announces new changes
Louisiana will be the first state to open its casinos on May 18 after Governor John Bel Edwards cleared the way for a Phase 1 reopening plan.
casinos will still need to seek approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board
Earlier this week, it was announced that some businesses will be allowed to operate at a restricted level from May 15, although casinos will still need to seek approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. The first establishments are confirmed to open from Monday.
Originally, gambling outlets were told that they could only open at 25% capacity, but this was increased to 50% on Thursday. Other outlets will still be expected to run at the capacity originally announced.
Moving to Phase 1
Announcing his new strategy, Governor Edwards said the news wasn’t a victory against COVID-19, but “a positive and hopeful move for Louisiana.”
Phase 1 includes the reopening of businesses such as malls and restaurants, alongside racetracks which will operate without spectators. For casinos and video poker parlors, new rules from the state’s Gaming Control Board will see openings delayed until Monday at the earliest.
Employees who engage with customers will have to wear masks as well as follow social distancing measures. Good hygiene practices, such as washing hands, will also need to be followed.
Operators worried over profits
Part of the decision to move from 25% to 50% capacity was due to a backlash from operators over reopening costs. Louisiana currently has 15 riverboat casinos and four racetrack casinos.
The executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, Wade Duty, said of the initial announcement: “I don’t want to seem ungrateful but if we can only service 25% of the positions, it really impacts the number of people who get called back to work.”
the revised 50% cap has meant that more casino staff can resume work
While the revised 50% cap has meant that more casino staff can resume work, it does cause problems for smaller establishments. Metro Gaming and Amusement owner Arthur Lawson believes it won’t always be cost-effective for small-scale operators to open, asking: “What does a restaurant with two or three machines do?”
Casino reopenings announced
Casinos such as the Horseshoe Bossier City and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs have already announced their Monday reopening. In a statement, the Caesars Entertainment Corporation-owned facilities informed they will resume operations from 8am, pending regulatory approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
Other changes to the original plan include allowing shopping mall retailers with interior entrances to also open, provided that they follow the existing guidance. Previously, these establishments were not allowed to open at all as part of the Phase 1 roll-out.
In order to be able to reopen, businesses in Louisiana are required to register at opensafely.la.gov.