The Louisiana Legislature has created a task force comprised of state officials that will examine ways in which it can increase the competitiveness between the state’s gaming sector and Oklahoma’s Native American casinos and Mississippi’s larger casinos.
Created during the past legislative session, the Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force is the first “investigatory and advisory” unit in the 22-year history of the riverboat gambling industry that will be tasked with examining all aspects of the industry, according to Wade Duty the executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, as reported by the Louisiana Record.
State Sen. Ronnie Jones (R-Lake Charles) will chair the task force that was created due to alleged threats to the state’s revenue from its riverboat casinos from neighboring Oklahoma and Mississippi. The task force’s members will include Gov. Jon Bel Edwards , Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser, Speaker of the House Taylor Barras, president of the Senate John Alario Jr, superintendent of the state police Michael Edmonson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development Don Pierson, attorney general Jeff Landry, and Duty.
While increasing competition between the gaming sector in Louisiana and neighboring states is one of the task force’s primary goals, Duty told the news agency that it will also be reviewing methods to “streamline the regulatory approval process for games” that at present take up to 11 months to complete. Other areas that will be under review said Duty is the square footage riverboats are currently allowed, which is now capped at 30,000 square feet; and the taxing of promotional credits used in the state’s casinos and the associated disadvantages. He said that they wouldn’t be granting any new licenses for additional casinos in the state.
Duty told the news agency that when Native American casinos in Oklahoma took off in 2005, the state’s revenue from the area’s riverboats was left “essentially trending flat,” reducing them by 17 percent where they have remained consistently. Mississippi’s casinos have also reduced the Bayou’s budget. Duty told the news agency that while the uniqueness of the state’s riverboat casinos may attract gamblers, a large source of their income has been depleted by the opening of much bigger casinos out of state which are situated closer to Dallas’ large market.
So far the task force has held two meetings and has been charged with examining current state laws while considering suggestions from citizens and the business community to try and determine the direction of Louisiana’s gaming industry. Prior to the November 2017 deadline, the task force’s findings will be presented to the Senate Committee on Judiciary B and the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.