Settle: Will Shreveport Have Land Based Casinos?

Will Shreveport have land based casinos? Let’s hope so!

Buts it’s not that easy to accomplish.

Last month Governor John Bel Edwards signed Senate Bill 316 that allows the state’s 15 riverboat casinos to move onto land. The hitch is that the land-based casino must be within 1200 feet from the designated berth space of each casino.

That means any replacement of a riverboat casino must be within about a quarter mile or four football fields of its current location.

The Gaming Control Board regulates gaming (aka gambling) in Louisiana.

Within the next few months, regulations should be proposed that outline designs, financing, amenities and application procedures for moving a riverboat casino onto land. These rules must go through a series of public hearings before approval.

The new regulations should be in place by year-end. The new law replaces the current limits of 30,000 square feet of gaming apace per boat with a cap of 2,365 gaming positions.

A “gaming position” is defined as a seat at a slot machine or a space beside a dice or other table game. Obviously, the regulations must address how the non-slot machine seats are determined.

Historically, the Gaming Board has required significant investment and amenities, such as restaurants and spas, to allow changes in casino licenses. How stringent the regulations for the new land-based casinos will be critical to the actual construction of these facilities

Riverboat gambling raised $419.2 million in taxes and fees in 2107. In comparison, oil and gas severance taxes accounted for $371 million last year. The state’s only land-based casino (Harrah’s New Orleans) contributed $60 million.

The big issue for El Dorado and Sam’s Town will be where to put a land-based facility.

Unfortunately, the Shreveport Riverfront is crowded with many mixed uses along the Clyde Fant Parkway.

Starting at Lake Street by Sci-port and going north, this stretch includes Riverview Park, Riverview Theatre, and Riverview Hall, the J. Bennett Johnson Waterway Regional Visitor’s Center, the Red River Entertainment District, the Aquarium, public and private parking venues and the two casinos.
To say that that this area is a crowded area with conflicting venues is an understatement. And there is little room for expansion for a land-based casino.

To his credit, Shreveport City Councilman Mike Corbin has identified this challenge. Corbin wants to jump-start a citizens committee to study this riverfront area and make recommendations to the Shreveport City Council to ensure that future growth in this area is “the best use”. The committee should also provide suggestions for expansion of the two riverboats to land facilities.

The four Bossier casinos (Horseshoe, Boomtown, Diamond Jacks, and Margaritaville) have adjacent land that can accommodate a land-based facility. Shreveport officials should quickly address the need for space that an expansion of El Dorado or Sam’s Town Casinos.

John Settle is a Shreveport-Bossier political columnist. You can read more at his blog settletalk.com.