Lousiana To Reopen Casinos May 18

In a recent decision, Louisiana’s Gaming Control Board has elected to reopen casinos. The reopening of Louisiana casinos will be effective May 18. Though Louisiana is not the first US state to make such a decision — Washington, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Idaho have also reopened some, especially tribal, casinos — but Louisiana is the largest market yet in the US to resume activities since the coronavirus crisis hit the country.

Nighttime at the boardwalk of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Casino operators in Louisiana are allowed to resume business not-as-usual on May 18. ©12019/Pixabay

Working On A Safe Reopening

According to Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, visits to Louisiana’s freshly-reopened casinos will not be totally as normal. In consideration of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, guests to state casinos will be subject to temperature checks, hand sanitizing, and screening questions before guests are allowed onto the casino floor.

The screening questions, Jones explained, are based on questions established by the Center for Disease Control. These questions will ensure that guests to the casinos are not experiencing known symptoms of the highly contagious coronavirus, including fever, difficulty breathing, and a loss of the ability to taste.

Additionally, Jones added, only 25% of each casino’s gaming machines will be available for guests during this time to use. Local casinos have told authorities that they will follow in the guidance of public health officials by ensuring guests maintain proper social distancing (keeping six feet, or 1.5 meters) apart, and employees will wear masks.

Traditionally, Louisiana’s casinos are attended by many guests who have arrived prior to seeing concerts, which are located in the same venue as the casinos. However, Jones assured the press, casinos in Louisiana will not be hosting live entertainment for the foreseeable future. As such, he expects visitation to be decreased to 25 to 50% of normal operation.

“Live entertainment is off the table for a while. Anything that would bring a lot of people together and create a problem from a social distancing standpoint is not going to be permitted. … Significantly fewer chairs at poker tables and blackjack tables. A craps table that ordinarily might have sixteen people jammed shoulder to shoulder prior to this public health crisis may have six people.”Ronnie Jones, Chairman, Louisiana Gaming Control Board

Louisiana Has Been Working To Protect Its Casinos

Since the onset of the coronavirus and its ensuing lockdowns, which vary state by state in the US, Louisiana legislators have worked to preserve the financial security of the state’s casinos. Earlier this month, the Louisiana Senate oversaw several bills which could help the local casino market out of its now-precarious state.

In early May, the Louisiana Senate passed two bills — Senate Bill 378 and Senate Bill 130 — which would allow state voters to decide on this year’s election day (November 3, 2020) whether or not college and professional sports betting will be allowed. An additional bill, Senate Bill 332, would lower taxes for casinos in relation to “freebies” given to gamblers.

At the time of the bill’s passage, State Senator Ronnie Johns described that the decision had been made out of the desire to protect Louisiana’s gambling industry. Like many other gambling markets worldwide, Louisiana’s casinos have been impacted by the forced closure of operations in response to the coronavirus.

According to Senator Johns, the closure of Louisiana’s casinos has already cost the state the equivalent of $100 million in gambling taxes. This is just the latest in an ongoing discussion in Louisiana over whether or not to legalize sports betting. Last year, a proposed bill on the subject was not able to pass the House, but opponents have changed their tune.

Gambling in Louisiana: An Overview

In total, Louisiana is home to 20 state-regulated casinos and 3 tribal casinos. Until January of this year, all of Louisiana’s casinos were riverboat casinos. This year, Louisiana’s Gaming Control Board approved the state’s first-ever dry land casino: a project by Eldorado Resorts, located at its Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Westlake, Louisiana.

Already, 14 riverboat casinos in Louisiana are working to apply for licenses to move their business ashore, which is likely not a bad idea. In some regions of Louisiana, like Baton Rouge, local riverboat casinos have been plagued by falling business for some time, exacerbated by the increase in casino activity but stasis in locations or options.

As in many other parts of the world, gambling in Louisana is most profitable in the video gambling sector. This has likely been a saving grace for the state in the last several weeks, as casinos have had to shutter their physical operations due to the unpredicted onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus in Louisiana

In a report made on noon, May 13, the Louisiana Department of Health reported a total of 32,662 COVID-19 cases statewide. The number had drastically increased from days before, but this is likely because an additional 10,000 registered cases from both commercial and state testing locations were registered, which had not been counted before.

In total, the state has experienced 2,315 deaths statewide. Still, Louisiana’s Governor Edwards has announced that the state will lift Phase One of the COVID shelter-in-place order, effective May 15. This stipulates that citizens are no longer expected to stay at home, and that some businesses can open so long as they maintain caution.

The cautious measures, like those to be undertaken by Louisiana’s casinos, include that shoppers and workers alike are expected to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and ensure that they are practicing good, safe hygiene. The move to Phase One was spurred by the state’s ability to ramp up testing of their citizens.

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