Saturday, July 13, 2024

Louisiana Gaming Faces Potential Challenges Amid Texas Expansion and Local Developments

by BIZ Magazine

Louisiana’s gaming industry may face significant challenges if neighboring Texas decides to legalize commercial casinos and sports betting, warns Ronnie Johns, Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Johns, who is set to retire at the end of June after three years in the role, shared his insights during an interview with on “The Edge.”

Johns emphasized that the introduction of gaming in Texas could severely impact Louisiana’s gaming revenue. “It’s going to be a huge blow to Louisiana,” he stated. Louisiana’s proximity to Texas, particularly cities like Houston, has historically driven a substantial influx of Texas residents to Louisiana’s casinos. This cross-border patronage includes notable figures like “Mattress Mack” from Houston, who frequents Louisiana for gambling.

Despite Texas’ historical resistance to gaming expansion, Johns predicts that it may eventually happen, potentially in the 2030s. He cites ongoing opposition from anti-gaming lawmakers and various groups as significant hurdles. Should Texas succeed in legalizing gaming, Louisiana could see a dramatic reduction in state revenue from gaming activities. “We’re predicting a 50% decrease in state revenue, should that happen,” Johns said.

In addition to concerns about competition from Texas, Johns discussed other pertinent issues in Louisiana’s gaming sector:

No Imminent Tax Hike on Sports Betting:
Johns dismissed the likelihood of increased taxes on sports betting in Louisiana. Despite a national conversation on this issue, he indicated that sports betting has exceeded revenue projections and there is no current momentum for a tax hike. “Sports betting’s been highly successful in Louisiana,” he noted. “I just don’t see any movement at this time to increase taxes.”

Expansion of Sports Betting in Additional Parishes:
Currently, nine parishes in Louisiana prohibit sports betting, while 55 have legalized it. Johns anticipates that some of these nine parishes may reconsider their stance in the coming years. “I predict over the next, say, four to five years you could probably have half of those attempting to approve sports betting again,” he said.

Debate Over Online Casino Gaming (iGaming):
Johns highlighted ongoing discussions about the implementation of online casino gaming, also known as iGaming, in Louisiana. The conversation is contentious, with the casino industry divided on the issue. Legislative approval faces obstacles from lawmakers and anti-gaming groups. “You’re going to have some pushback from some of the traditional Christian-based organizations,” Johns explained.

Riverboat Casinos Moving Ashore:
Another topic of discussion was the movement of riverboat casinos to land-based operations. While a few casinos have made or are in the process of making this transition, Johns does not foresee all 15 riverboat license holders moving ashore due to economic feasibility concerns. “I see a point where we’re going to have a number of them do it,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where all 15 are going to do that.”

Johns’ tenure has seen substantial developments in Louisiana’s gaming landscape, and his insights offer a glimpse into the potential future of the industry amidst both local and regional pressures.

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About Louisiana Gaming Control Board:
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board oversees all aspects of gaming in the state, ensuring the integrity of the industry and compliance with all regulatory standards.

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