The casino market in Louisiana could be about to undergo significant change after the Louisiana State Senate passed legislation earlier this week that would permit the southern state’s 15 riverboat gambling facilities to move onto dry land.

According to a report from The News-Star newspaper, the 39-member body approved Senate Bill 316 from Louisiana State Senator Ronnie Johns on Tuesday by a vote of 22 to 14 with the legislation now headed to the similarly Republican-controlled Louisiana House of Representatives.

If passed as written, Johns’ legislation would reportedly allow Louisiana’s riverboat casinos such as the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino Hotel and the L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles to relocate onto land so long as they remained within 1,200 feet of their existing berths and were able to demonstrate economic development. The measure would purportedly also permit the facilities to increase the size of their gaming floors in order to accommodate bigger machines and additional technologies.

The News-Star reported that the legislation from the Lake Charles Republican followed the publication of a 17-month study into Louisiana’s casino industry that had judged the current riverboat requirement superfluous due to the fact that the enterprises never left their docks. Johns purportedly declared that his measure would moreover help to ‘modernize’ the local gambling scene, which contributes around $900 million to Louisiana’s economy every year and allow local casinos to better compete with venues in the neighboring states of Mississippi and Oklahoma.

“It does not expand gambling in any way, shape or form,” Johns reportedly told the newspaper.

The News-Star reported that six of the state’s riverboat casinos are located in the Shreveport/Bossier City metropolitan area and John’s legislation could help these to overturn a recent 20% decline in annual aggregated gross gaming revenues due to increased competition from tribal operations in nearby Oklahoma.

“This is something Shreveport/Bossier City needs to compete with Oklahoma,” the Republican Louisiana State Senator for Bossier City, Barrow Peacock, reportedly told the newspaper. “Please help us modernize the industry. We need this.”

Louisiana State Senator Danny Martiny reportedly echoed these sentiments earlier this week by proclaiming that the state should treat casinos like any of its other industries.

“This is a viable industry in our state and we need the money,” the Metairie Republican reportedly told The News-Star. “The rest of the country is laughing at us.”

However, not everyone agreed with Democratic Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich from Shreveport reportedly advising fellow legislators not to be ‘misled’ into thinking that Johns’ measure would not lead to an expansion of gambling across the state.

“People are driving into the Red River because they’ve had bad nights at the boat,” Milkovich reportedly told the newspaper. “People get addicted to gambling. We’re taking money out of Louisiana and funneling scores of millions to out-of-state gambling syndicates.”

In related news, The News-Star reported that Tuesday additionally saw Louisiana’s upper legislative body narrowly reject a proposed measure that would have permitted the firm behind Bossier City’s DiamondJacks Casino Hotel to relocate the venue almost 300 miles southeast to a Tangipahoa Parish site near the small city of Hammond. Senate Bill 417 purportedly failed by a vote 15 to 18 although its sponsor, Republican Louisiana State Senator Bodi White, may look to reintroduce his proposition at later sessions.