As we reported elsewhere, the Louisiana state legislature passed a law in May to allow riverboat casinos to relocate on land. We spoke a bit about the onerous obstacles the legislature put in the way of the riverboat casinos. In this news report, we’ll talk only about the positive developments—land based casino bonuses, as it were—that observers expect to see in the future as a direct result of the new law.
Recognizing the Popularity of Casino Gambling
When the state legislature passed the law that legalized casino gambling in 1991, it allowed land based casinos to have only 14 poker tables. The law legalizing gambling was passed reluctantly. Louisiana is a conservative and religious state and was even more so back in 1991. The new law recognizes that times have changed, that gambling at casinos is very popular, that the state can reap tax revenues from casino gambling, and that Mississippi was taking a lot of money out of Louisiana because its gambling industry was so much better developed.
The few poker events that the state’s land based casinos run get well into the hundreds of participants and spectators. New legislation to bring Louisiana’s poker industry up to the level of neighboring Mississippi has long been overdue. The 14 table limit is woefully behind the times.
Poker on the Rivers
Space was so limited in the riverboat casinos that poker took a back seat to other casino games such as slots, roulette, craps, and blackjack. But people who like poker also wanted to be able to play on the riverboats.
The original idea of riverboat casinos was that the casinos would wind their way through the state’s hundreds of miles of rivers and bayous. The casinos found out early that such a business model would bankrupt them quickly. Casino patrons want to know where the riverboat is at all times. They want to be able to leave the casino whenever they so desire. Patronage fell off soon until the riverboat casinos stopped meandering and stayed in one place albeit still on the rivers.
When the riverboat casinos relocate to land, they will have a lot more space to expand their gaming operation in all directions including poker.
One riverboat casino operator expressed his pleasure at the new law. The Horseshoe stays docked at Bossier City in the northwest corner of the state near Shreveport.
Chad Disante runs the poker room at the Horseshoe. He said, “We are excited about new opportunities that come with this newly passed legislation. Our poker room is now able to host large-scale land based tournaments and is no longer confined to a restricted gaming space. Our guests will see more legendary events at Horseshoe Bossier City with the World Series of Poker and the RunGood Poker Series.”
Economy of Poker
Poker is much more than a small group of players playing around a table at the casino. The casino benefits financially from hosting poker tournaments. The participants put down a buy in fee which at a place like Bossier City would be quite reasonable.
But the tournament might draw hundreds or even a thousand or more spectators. These people rent rooms at the hotel, gamble themselves in the casino, eat in the restaurants and imbibe at the pubs, take in a show if the casino is large enough to have a theater, and more. The city of Bossier City as well as the state would collect taxes from all the purchases the tournament spectators make.
No other casino game can come close to poker as a draw of spectators to watch players try to figure out what their opponents have, whether they are bluffing, or whether they can bluff the opponents themselves. Blackjack simply lacks the gravitas of poker. Slots tournaments may be popular but the buy in fees are super small if there is one at all and the prizes are modest to say the least. No one watches players spinning slots in a tournament.
Months to Years
It will take several months at the very least for the first few riverboat casinos to relocate to land. Nevertheless the process has already begun. Some riverboat casinos may close their doors as they fail to raise the money for the relocation and their business model becomes even less tenable as other riverboat casinos leave the water for dry land.
The new law allows the formerly river based casinos to get a lot bigger. The boats were seriously limited in space, being allowed only 30,000 square feet of space. The new land based casinos will have far more floor space but the definition of allowed space refers to gaming positions with each relocated casino allowed 2365 such positions. A gaming position is easy to calculate when it refers to a seat at a slot machine or a seat at the blackjack table but is less easy to calculate when people crowd around a roulette or craps table.
The definition using gaming positions rather than square feet means that the casino can become more comfortable for everyone involved by allowing slightly more space between machines and tables. General comfort is a subtle element of any business’s attractiveness, but everyone knows that small restaurants that cram in one or two extra tables are less comfortable than restaurants that don’t. The same evaluation obtains for airlines.
Competing with Mississippi
The Mississippi casinos located on the Gulf of Mexico were devastated by Hurricane Katrina but were quickly rebuilt. The Mississippi land based casino industry attracts gamers from all over the world as they offer not only gaming but warm waters in the winter and many other luxury amenities.
Louisiana hopes to be able to compete with its neighbor to the east at least as regards gamers from Louisiana itself staying in state.