Louisiana's lawmakers are planning to rewrite some of the laws that govern the state's riverboat casinos like the Amelia Belle Casino.
This will be the first time in nearly two decades that there will be a possibility for change. These changes are focused at moving riverboat casinos onto land and setting in place limits on gambling space.
These changes were suggested by the Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force set up by the state back in 2016. The task force has three main goals: update the river casino infrastructure, ensure competitiveness for the state's casinos, and promotion of the Louisiana gambling industry to help with local development.
Louisiana riverboat casinos started their operations back in 1991 after a bitter and long drawn out debate in the conservative state took place regarding the introduction of US casinos. The decision to allow riverboat casinos hinged on the fact that they brought another stream of revenue to the state. Since then, the state has been a bit hands-off when it comes to gambling legislation. The only additional change to the law was made back in 2001 when the riverboats were allowed to be permanently docked. This amendment meant that riverboat casinos no longer needed to cruise down the Mississippi river on a regular basis. Riverboat casinos reciprocated by paying the state a higher tax rate.
This higher tax rate is reflected in the amount that the casinos contribute to the state coffers. The gambling industry generates $900 million in revenue to the state and $400 million comes directly from riverboat casinos. Besides the large contribution to the state, riverboat casinos also employ more than 20,000 people and have a payroll of $348 million, which is another help to the state economy.
The task force came up with several proposals to further develop riverboat casinos in the state. First, it would be to allow riverboat casinos to operate gambling activities within 1,200 feet of the riverboat's berth. Next, there is a proposal to remove the iverboats' paddle wheels since Louisiana is one of the last states that require riverboat casinos still operate on water.
Finally, there is the removal of the cap of 30,000 feet of gambling space and 2,365 seats in the location.
Lake Charles Republican Senator Ronnie Johns is fully behind these proposed changes to the gaming laws that govern these riverboat casinos. There are currently 15 riverboat casinos in the state and Johns who is also the chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board believes that these changes will further benefit riverboat casinos.
In a statement, Johns said
I think we have started a discussion that’s been years in the making. We can make some meaningful changes. We can promote a reinvestment in this economy in Louisiana. I think we can create some jobs.